Lions Standing By Their Quarterback

While the Vikings consider a change at quarterback, the Lions are sticking with starter Jon Kitna despite a poor performance against the Patriots. And the Vikings could be catching a break with one of Detroit's best players expected to be sidelined for Sunday's game.

Barring an injury or other unforeseen developments, veteran Jon Kitna is the Lions quarterback not only for the remaining four games of the 2006 season but for next year also.

Coach Rod Marinelli made his intentions clear Monday in response to ongoing questions regarding the status of the Lions quarterback position, notably after Kitna's three interceptions and one lost fumble in the 28-21 loss Sunday at New England.

"I see Jon as our starter for next year," Marinelli said. "He brings so many things, he's a heck of a quarterback. It wasn't his best game (Sunday), but it's an entire unit, the way I look at it.

"I think he's got so much upside to him. We put a tremendous amount of pressure on him, and the more you do throw, breakdowns can happen, interceptions can happen. He's also done a lot of very, very good things in terms of moving the ball, throwing the ball, spreading it around the field."

Kitna has been Marinelli's choice as the Lions' quarterback almost since he arrived last spring and the decision was made to trade Joey Harrington. Although there was a brief discussion of competition between Kitna, Josh McCown and Dan Orlovsky, Kitna moved into the No. 1 job during offseason workouts and has taken every snap in every regular-season game.

On the plus side, Kitna's leadership has gone far in unifying the Lions locker room, which had been splintered during recent seasons of struggles under Harrington, Mike McMahon and Jeff Garcia.

To his credit, Kitna has moved the team well at times, but opposing defenses seem to have caught up with him in the Mike Martz-style offense in recent weeks. He has thrown at least one interception in each of the past 10 games, and his offensive line has given up 13 sacks in the past two games. Yet Kitna has never pointed a finger at anyone but himself for the interceptions and mistakes.

Kitna was not surprised that Marinelli had expressed confidence in him as the long-term quarterback, and he obviously likes the idea.

"I think that's been his stance all along on how to build a team and the continuity you need at that position," Kitna said. "Your quarterback is going to have times — every quarterback is going to have times — when he does something that really is damaging to the football team.

"(Sunday), I felt like for the first time I just let the whole team down. Coach Marinelli doesn't look at just one play, he looks at the whole picture."

ROGERS' KNEE ‘NOT HEALTHY'

  • The season could be just about over for two-time Pro Bowl DT Shaun Rogers, even with four games remaining on the schedule.

    Six games into the season, Rogers was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance and, during the four-game suspension, he had arthroscopic knee surgery.

    The suspension was over after the Nov. 19 game at Arizona, but Rogers apparently is not yet close to making a comeback from the knee surgery.

    "His knee's not healthy," coach Rod Marinelli said Monday. "We went out and worked him last week and it swelled up.

    "He went out, worked out, biked on it hard and all those things. His knee blew up, and you can't put a guy out there like that."

    Marinelli said the Lions probably will test Rogers and the knee once more this week, but if there is not noticeable improvement, it is likely Rogers would go on injured reserve.

    In the first six games of the season, Rogers had three sacks but he also had some unproductive games, an indication of the problem he was having with his knee even then.

    NOTES

  • Although the Lions are stuck on a four-game losing streak that has dropped them to 2-10 going into their game Sunday against the Vikings, coach Rod Marinelli seemed reinvigorated at his weekly media session Monday.

    He was particularly determined to correct the team's tendency to play close during the first three quarters but self-destruct in the final 15 minutes of the game.

    The 28-21 loss Sunday at New England was an example. The Lions led the Patriots 21-13 after Jason Hanson's fourth field goal of the game with 13:07 remaining, but they committed three turnovers and let the game get away.

    "I think the team's playing hard, and I like that," Marinelli said. "I like how they're preparing. What I don't like is the fourth quarter when the game's on the line, on the road.

    "One thing I appreciated is that they went on the road against a very good team. We went on the road and competed very hard for a little over three quarters in terms of eliminating mistakes, playing with good fundamentals, kind of being on the details. But the fourth quarter, once again, is getting us."

    Marinelli said he and his staff must take some of the blame for the team's inability to finish strong, but he said he would continue to harp on the subject in the final four weeks of the season.

    "You've got to learn from those experiences and take it into this week," he said. "We're going into our fourth quarter (of the season). We've got three divisional games to go and Dallas at the end. Looking forward to that and seeing if I can get this team to get better and better."

  • CB Fernando Bryant was scheduled for additional medical tests Monday after suffering a concussion Sunday in the Lions' 28-21 loss at New England. Although coach Rod Marinelli said he would have to wait for the results before making any decisions, he admitted Bryant might miss the upcoming game against Minnesota.

  • CB Dre' Bly caught the attention of the coaches with his play Sunday in the 28-21 loss at New England. He had an interception and a fumble recovery, but coach Rod Marinelli said Bly also did a better job tackling, an area in which he has not always been an enthusiastic participant.

  • DE Corey Smith, who was signed by the Lions less than a month ago to pick up the slack resulting from injuries on the defensive line, continued to play productively in a backup role. Smith caused a fumble, had a quarterback hit and was solid on his special teams assignments in the 28-21 loss to New England on Sunday.

  • DT Cory Redding, who had four sacks as a defensive end in his first three seasons with the Lions, leads the team with six this year, all of them since being moved to under tackle after the Lions lost DT Shaun Cody to a foot injury and DT Shaun Rogers to a suspension and knee surgery. Coach Rod Marinelli indicated he expects to keep Redding at defensive tackle next year.

  • DE Kalimba Edwards was the only Lions starter not credited with making one play in the team's 28-21 loss Sunday at New England. The Lions seemingly had high expectations for the former second-round draft pick at the start of the season, but he has been a disappointment. In the first 12 games, he has yet to register a quarterback sack, which was the area in which the team had high hopes for him.


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