Kitna did not play in the second half of Sunday's 34-7 loss to Chicago. He said after the game he had back spasms in the first quarter, his back seized up at halftime and he was unable to continue. He did not practice Wednesday and went for an MRI exam on his back.
So backup Dan Orlovsky split reps in practice with third QB Drew Stanton. Here's the problem, though: Both are inexperienced, and both have injury issues of their own.
Orlovsky suffered knee and ankle injuries after relieving Kitna on Sunday. Stanton just returned from a sprained thumb on his throwing hand.
Coach Rod Marinelli made sure practice-squad quarterback Drew Henson - whom he calls Drew II - got some work, too.
"We're just trying to prepare all of them," Marinelli said, "just to see what happens."
Asked if he expected Kitna to play Sunday, Marinelli said: "I really don't know, honestly. It's kind of a day-to-day thing."
Kitna has started every game for the Lions since signing as a free agent in 2006, despite absorbing 129 sacks and many more hits. He has played through and bounced back from injuries before, including back spasms. How much practice time would he need to be ready for Sunday?
"Obviously you like guys to practice," Marinelli said. "You've got to see each day where we're at and kind of go from there. I don't have a great feel yet. He's sore, though."
Orlovsky hobbled through the locker room Wednesday with his right arm encased in ice under his shirt, as is routine, and his left leg wrapped underneath his sweats.
Asked how he felt, he joked: "Got a little runny nose." He said he was "probably a little bit limited compared to me being 100%, but nothing that's really hindered me. ... There's something there, but it's nothing that I think is earth-shattering."
Orlovsky said his status was up to the trainers and coaches. But he has been waiting for his chance since the Lions drafted him in the fifth round in 2005, and has had only five second-half appearances in his career. His contract is up after the season.
"If I have a chance to start, yeah, I'd have to be dead not to," Orlovsky said. "But I think any guy on any NFL roster is going to say that."
Stanton spent last season on injured reserve with a knee problem, and the thumb injury kept him out of two exhibition games. Last week was his first week of regular-season practice since the Lions drafted him in the second round out of Michigan State last year, and Wednesday was another milestone.
"I took more reps with the ones than I took ever since I've been here," Stanton said. "So it was really nice to get out there and get some reps and just kind of get my feet back underneath me.
"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."
Stanton has had his mechanics altered each of the last two off-seasons. He struggled even to throw a spiral a few months ago. But he said he is now able to play without thinking about his throwing motion and it's just a matter of getting reps.
"I think they're going to play whoever they feel most comfortable playing," Stanton said. "I'm third on the depth chart right now. Dan's second. So if he's ready to play, I'm sure he'll play. I'm fine with that. 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."
SERIES HISTORY: 94th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 61-30-2. Lions have lost 11 of their last 12, 15 of their last 17 and 17 of their last 20 to the Vikings. Lions have lost their last 10 games at the Metrodome. Their last victory there was in 1997.
The fans and media are screaming for coach Rod Marinelli to play the youngsters now that the Lions are 0-4. But Marinelli has been playing young players, and he might be forced to play even more because of injuries.
The Lions started essentially four rookies Sunday against Chicago: running back Kevin Smith, fullback Jerome Felton and right tackle Gosder Cherilus, plus right guard Manny Ramirez, a second-year player whose only experience was one game on special teams last season.
Defensive end Cliff Avril and linebacker Jordon Dizon saw significant playing time on defense, though Dizon's came when the game was out of hand.