Shades of Layne: Kitna's fire sparks team

Jon Kitna's skyrocketing popularity might not necessarily win him the governor's seat in Michigan, but you can include most -- if not all -- of his teammates as those that might pen his name onto their individual ballot.

Jon Kitna's skyrocketing popularity might not necessarily win him the governor's seat in Michigan, but you can include most -- if not all -- of his teammates as those that might pen his name onto their individual ballot.

One day removed from Sunday's 30-14 win over the Atlanta Falcons, where the Lions' quarterback aired it out for 321 yards and a touchdown, the optimistic tone revolved primarily around one individual: Kitna.

But it wasn't just the veteran's statistical output that is earning him the trust and respect of his team; it is the gritty, Rudy-esque fight that is evident on the field. Late in the third quarter, while sliding to convert a critical third down late in the third quarter, Kitna absorbed a late hit by recognized league cheap-shot artist DeAngelo Hall. In retaliation, Kitna immediately jumped to his feet and attacked a pack of Falcons' defenders.

The drama was reminiscent to the onfield demeanor of legendary Lions' quarterback Bobby Layne, and drew the reverence of many of his teammates.

"I promise you, if I see (DeAngelo Hall) on the field again I will try and take his head off," remarked center Dominic Raiola on Monday. "I'm serious... That's all I've got to say about that."

Added defensive end Cory Redding: " ... he was fighting for himself and for the team. Quarterbacks always talk about being tough, but he stepped up. You don't see that from a lot of quarterbacks. I'd take that guy in my foxhole any time."

The vocal (and physical) support of Kitna couldn't come at a better time for the Lions. With just their second win of the season, and three winnable contests around the corner, the team would like to enter the bottom of the schedule with something to hang their collective hat on.

Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli believes that Kitna's personality is exactly what Detroit needs to revive the season and, ultimately, reach its goals.

"I think Kitna - he is a battler - and our team knows that," he said. "That guy and you've seen him before even in the preseason diving head first for first downs - how he plays. He's tough and I think our team really respects how tough he is, his leadership and they have his back. They're going to fight for this guy. How tough he is and how competitive he is.

"He's such a great competitor and I think that rallies your team."

Kitna also represents what the Lions lacked during the Joey Harrington era. Under the tutelage of countless coordinators and coaching staffs, Harrington was never able to blossom into the leader -- either statistically or otherwise -- that he was at the collegiate level.

With Kitna, the Lions have a veteran signal caller that has been tried and tested. And, with the full support of the coaching staff for perhaps the first time his career, he is delivering.

Marinelli compared Kitna's onfield presence to that of former Minnesota Vikings' quarterback Joe Kapp, whom Sports Illustrated once dubbed, "The Toughest Chicano."

"When you got your leader as maybe one of your best competitors - your quarterback - one of your best competitors on your football team, that's what you want because that's in your leadership position," said Marinelli. "He rallies those guys around him, he's our Joe Kapp. He's that type of guy. I worked for Joe Kapp, so I know what Joe Kapp was about. He's got some of that same fiber, that same intensity.

"That leadership for a team is special and he brings that to the table. You're willing to fight for that. If you're willing to follow that, you're willing to fight for it."


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