The 2003 Comeback Player of the Year is making another comeback for a week anyway. With Carson Palmer nursing a sprained left knee, Jon Kitna is expected to take the reins...
The 2003 Comeback Player of the Year is making another comeback for a week anyway.
With Carson Palmer nursing a sprained left knee, Jon Kitna is expected to take the reins of the Cincinnati Bengals’ potent offense one more time and start at quarterback against the Buffalo Bills today.
Kitna, a Tacoma native who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Seahawks, signed with the Bengals in 2001 and bounced back from two trying seasons to throw for a career-high 3,591 yards, with 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, last season.
He won the league’s award for resilience, then was rewarded by his team this season by being benched for Palmer, the No. 1 pick in the draft last year.
Kitna, who accepted his offseason demotion with class, says this season has been his most enjoyable in the NFL because he has not had to deal with the weekly quarterback shuffle that dominated his first two seasons in Cincinnati under former coach Dick LeBeau. Second-year boss Marvin Lewis decided early in the offseason to go with Palmer as the starter, and Kitna was fine with it.
“As a player and as a person, you want to know,” Kitna told the Dayton Daily News. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a second guy. Just tell me I’m the second guy. I can handle that.
“Sitting back and watching Carson grow into the quarterback that he’s been and the way he’s handled adversity, being a supporter of his and really just accepting my role, it’s been awesome because you know where you stand with coach Lewis. You know what your role is.”
Last week that role was relieving Palmer after he was injured against New England. Kitna completed 9 of 13 passes for 126 yards, with a touchdown and interception.
Now he figures to take over an offense that has put up 450 yards or more in three straight games.
“In my four years here, I haven’t seen the offense have the confidence, all around, that they have right now,” Kitna said. “The confidence comes with making plays. Each guy is making plays when his number is called. It’s exciting to see.”
Troy Brown, who got his third interception of the season last week, has gained much renown for playing both receiver and defensive back while the Patriots’ top three cornerbacks have been out with injuries.
The Pats also have used linebacker Mike Vrabel as a tight end, just as the Denver Broncos have used corner Champ Bailey at receiver, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have used defensive end Simeon Rice at tight end, and others have interchanged receivers and defensive backs.
The most recent to get in on the act is Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers, who has played some receiver for the Panthers over the past three weeks.
It has long been the plan of coach John Fox and his staff, who want to take advantage of Peppers’ 6-foot-6 height and basketball skills that were honed during two seasons on North Carolina’s team.
“He’s just a great athlete,” Fox told local reporters. “He’s got great hand-eye coordination, he can jump, he can run. It’s hard to play basketball at the level he did and not have good hands. Those are exceptional athletes that play that game at that level. And we’re just trying to carry that over to football.
“We’re just going to continue to build on that package,” Fox said, “and see where it takes us.”
Just for kicks
The New Orleans Saints’ kickoff specialist was nearly KO’d by the Dallas Cowboys’ mascot last weekend.
Mitch Berger said Rowdy the Cowboy knocked him down while trying to block one of his kicks during pregame warmups.
“I was practicing my kickoffs, and the big mascot dove in front of me to block the ball and he took my knees out,” Berger told New Orleans media. “I started smacking the guy in the head and screaming at him.
“I tried to rip his head off and throw it, but I couldn’t get it off. The referee saw it all, but what’s he going to do? Throw a flag?”
One ref did throw a flag minutes later when Berger booted the opening kickoff out of bounds, giving Dallas the ball at the 40-yard line.
“I hadn’t kicked a ball out of bounds in two years,” Berger said. “I’m not making excuses. I should have composed myself, but it was crazy.”
Chris Cluff: email@example.com or 206-464-8787