The decision was alluded to during Thursday's practice session in Allen Park, where the Lions are preparing for Sunday's contest at Minnesota. Kitna didn't practice for the third consecutive day as he recovers from an injured back. He underwent an MRI on Wednesday, but those results weren't made available.
Kitna missed the entire second half of last Sunday's 34-7 loss to Chicago. He admitted following the game that he had back spasms in the first quarter; after his back seized up at halftime, he was unable to perform.
"Well, we practiced Drew (Stanton) and Dan (Orlovsky) as if they were playing and we'll just see how it plays out by Saturday," said offensive coordinator Jim Colletto. When asked about Kitna's progress, Colletto said Kitna was still sore, and the team would re-evaluate him during Sunday morning's workout -- but that the chance of Kitna actually starting was unlikely.
Asked if Kitna's experience would allow him to start with limited practice time, Colletto responded: "Well generally you could say that, but that's hard for football players, whatever level, if they miss a week of practice."
Orlovsky, meanwhile, has impressed the coaching staff not just with his grasp of the offense, but his ability to recover from lower-leg injuries suffered last week. In relief of Kitna, Orlovsky was 13 of 23 for 97 yards and one interception.
"He's doing good," said Colletto. "On Monday we thought he wouldn't play at all, and then he was out there practicing Wednesday and it doesn't even look like he got hurt."
Many in the local Detroit media have questioned whether or not second-year quarterback and former Michigan State standout Drew Stanton would garner the starting not. However, the split in repetitions is more due to Orlovsky's questionable health status than it is a competition. It will also help prepare Stanton to enter the game in the backup role.
Stanton is still learning the offense, and Colletto admitted that the playbook would have to be trimmed if Stanton was to play.
"In this game it's one snap and you can be done," said Colletto. "And then if (Drew) hadn't had any (repetitions in practice) he'd really be at a disadvantage, so that's why we did that. And again, Dan has done a lot of these things already so it's more catching Drew up to speed than it was Dan."
Additionally, Stanton is only experiencing his second week of regular-season practice since joining the Lions. He missed last year with a knee injury, along with the bulk of the preseason and practice with an injured thumb. He has taken more reps on Wednesday and Thursday than at any point in his professional career.
"It was really nice to get out there and get some reps and just kind of get my feet back underneath me," said Stanton. "It was good for me to get out there and kind of get used to it. Some of the stuff I haven't done before. Some of it came back quick. But there's a lot of valuable stuff for me to take away from this practice."
"I think they're going to play whoever they feel most comfortable playing..... All I can do is just get prepared and do whatever I can to, if I get put in that position to go out there and play, try and be successful."
Instead of his typical position in the box, Colletto spent last week on the sideline, which allowed him to be a calming influence on Jon Kitna. Will he do it again?
"I think it's a lot more advantageous for the quarterback to have me down there because we can have a better conversation than trying to go through phones and headsets and all that," said Colletto. "And I think I'll remain doing that."
"We'll decide that probably at the end of the week," said Colletto. "Kevin (Smith) will probably be a little more on third downs because Rudi's not as comfortable at that, though he's getting better at it. But they'll split most of the time."
Earlier in the week, wide receiver Roy Williams suggested that it was entirely realistic for him and second-year sensation Calvin Johnson to get equal catches. Regardless, Colletto said it wasn't a priority.
"You want my honest answer? I could care less," he said. "We're going to go out and throw the ball and call the plays and however it plays out, it plays out. There are certain kinds of routes where we try to get it to Calvin and certain routes that we try to get it to Roy, but just in the course of the game – and I'll be honest with you, I don't ever think of those in those terms. We have things that we try to do, but there are some home run plays we try to get to one guy or another."