Kitna Challenging Romo, But Not For His Job

Sometimes the challenge of the day is completing the most passes in 7-on-7 drills. Sometimes it's being more accurate on a particular route.
Every day, though, Jon Kitna is challenging Tony Romo to something.
Their competitions are friendly but serious, an attempt to make each other better. The one thing they're not competing for is to be the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.
Kitna understands that is Romo's job. As the backup, Kitna figures one of his duties is keeping Romo as sharp as possible, which is why he's always finding ways to spice up practice.
"That's what I was taught when I came into the league, from John Friesz and Warren Moon," said Kitna, who has been in the NFL since 1996. "You had to compete with each other to make each other better, even though you're not competing for playing time. You want to be the guy to perform at the highest level at practice."
Then again, Kitna is all about competing.
"He wants to win everything he does -- and I mean everything," said receiver Roy Williams, Kitna's teammate for 2½ seasons in Detroit. "He wants to know who can tie their shoe the fastest."
In addition to desire, Kitna still has the arm and conditioning to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. But he's so happy to be part of a winning team, and so realistic about the job market for 36-year-old quarterbacks, that he is content with this role.
"I'll still prepare the same way as if I was starting," he said. "If that time comes, I'll be ready."
Kitna knows the drill because he's done it before.
In 2004, he went from starter to backup in Cincinnati so that Carson Palmer could take over, then had to carry a clipboard again the following year. Kitna went to Detroit in '06 because he wanted another chance to start and threw for a career-best 4,208 yards that season.
He put up big numbers again in 2007, but the Lions were lousy. He lost seven of his last eight starts, then opened 2008 with four more losses and a back injury that ended his season. Detroit lost its remaining 12 games of '08, proving that Kitna wasn't the only problem.
When Romo and Kitna aren't going through their mini-battles, they often talk about things like how to handle a certain situation or how to read a particular defense. Cowboys fans are especially hoping Kitna can teach Romo everything he needs to know to get on the same wavelength as Williams.
Put it this way: Williams caught more passes for more yards and more touchdowns from Kitna last season than he did from Romo, despite playing four games with Kitna and seven with Romo. One of Williams' best catches of training camp -- leaping between two defenders to snag a pass in the end zone -- was thrown by Kitna.
"The more knowledge you can gain as a quarterback, the better it is," said Romo, noting he's been a student of teammates Vinny Testaverde, Drew Bledsoe and Johnson. "Jon understands the psyche of the position. Every game is not a bed of roses. In some ways, to get out here, you need to have that ability to let things go. You also have to have the ability to learn from it, and also have the ability to get a little (angry) and take it up a notch. Those are all things Jon understands and can help with."
Alas, neither Kitna nor Romo would give specifics about their QB Olympics. Are they keeping counting of who wins the most rounds?
"We'll keep that to ourselves also," Kitna said, laughing.
But the stakes are high. Pride is on the line.
"You get bragging rights if you win," Kitna said, "and you take it in the chin if you lose."

Copyright Associated Press

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