Lions' quarterback Jon Kitna has always rolled with the punches.
"My whole thought process was that, with Drew, you've got to bring a young guy in," said Kitna after the first day of Detroit's three day mini-camp. "I mean, it's not a secret, I'm not 24, so you always have to have guys you're developing.
"They knew they were going to trade Josh (McCown), and so you're always trying to develop guys. So the best way to do it is, especially in this system, to bring them in where they don't have to play right away because this system is so complex."
Which is why Kitna, under offensive coordinator Mike Martz, is prepping himself for a breakout year -- at the ripe age of 34. Kitna completed 372 of his 596 attempts in 2006, resulting in 4,208 yards -- all Lions' passing records. But he also threw 22 interceptions against just 21 touchdown completions. With the addition of Johnson, a stacked backfield and depth on the offensive line, he is optimistic that good things will evolve while he's still in control.
And that means this season.
"It's what you want as a quarterback," he said. "You want to feel like you have the answers around you, that you don't have to do everything. You just get the ball in their hands and do what coach asked you to do. And it's going to be exciting to watch this thing grow. I mean we're really just hitting our off-season program right now, this is the start of it -— for the next four, five weeks, going through this, going through OTAs, and then take a little break before we get to training camp.
"But I would imagine that by the middle of June, this thing is going to be running pretty well."
With the Lions modifying the offensive line constantly to find the best formula (veteran Damien Woody, usually at right guard, spent Tuesday afternoon on the left side), the team is also hoping to protect Kitna from assault. The team has brought in additional help during the off-season, including right tackle Georgia Foster via trade with Denver and guard Edwin Mulitalo (signed away from Baltimore). The plethora of assistance should give the Detroit offense -- and especially Kitna -- time to operate in the pocket.
"You know what's awesome with them? You can just see the confidence in their eyes," said Kitna. "You bring in George Foster, you've got Stephen Peterman, who played last year and came off his injury. I believe he was a second round draft pick, so he's a good player, and then Damien's back. You can see the confidence that he has, that he feels good about himself. And then you add that to Dom (Raiola) and Jeff (Backus) and you have the young guys who played last year tough coming off of injuries.
"We feel pretty good about our guys right now, in terms of just the confidence in the top 12 guys we have."
On Tuesday, Kitna hooked up with receiver Roy Williams on a deep route, and his passes were crisp and efficient. While he didn't spend too much time on the field with Johnson, he believes the rookie will develop just fine under the guidance of Martz and the rest of the offensive unit.
"Today was the first day I've seen him, really," said Kitna. "I talked to him a little bit last week, I came down to watch practice, but nothing dramatic. You don't want to just jump all over a guy and all that stuff. We'll grow into a good relationship, I'm sure."