Bengals have Kitna's number

3-21-01

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Jon Kitna hasn't worn No. 3 since he led Central Washington to the NAIA title game. No Bengal has worn No. 3 since Jim Breech kicked Cincinnati to two Super Bowls.

So it looks like equipment managers Rob Recker and Jeff Brickner have a pretty good fit after Kitna requested and received No. 3.

Kitna had No. 7 for the Seahawks, a number he first wore for the fifth grade East Side Express in Tacoma Pop Warner and kept it through his career at Lincoln High School.

But the load has to be lightened for a cross-country move, so No. 7 stays behind.

"I just want a fresh, brand new start," said Kitna, who struggled last year in Seattle under coach Mike Holmgren. "It's kind of like starting over again and I guess the number is one of the ways to do it."

Kitna plans to be in Cincinnati in about 10 days

and will work out here for a week. Then he'll be back for the entire month of May in the town where there really is only one No. 7 at quarterback. Even though David Klingler wore it between Boomer Esiason's two docudramas with the Bengals.

"I knew he wore it there, but I wasn't really thinking about that," Kitna said. "I couldn't get 3 when I was in Seattle, so I thought this was a good time to get it back."

Kitna, the NAIA first-team All-American who went undrafted, couldn't wear No. 3 because it was already taken by Rick Mirer at the other end of the universe as Seattle's first-round pick in the 1993 draft.

Actually, when Kitna switched to No. 3 as a freshman at Central Washington, it started as a joke.

"My coach also played at Central Washington," Kitna said, "so one day we were sitting around and I said, 'I ought to wear your number,' and I followed through on it."

While wearing No. 3 at Central, Kitna had 17 300-yard passing days and threw 99 touchdowns. His coach has also done pretty well since then. Greg Olson coached Purdue record-setter Drew Brees before leaving after this season to become the 49ers' new quarterbacks coach.

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