Kitna era begins

3-09-01 BY GEOFF HOBSON

How tough is quarterbacking in the NFL?

There's Trent Dilfer, who lost his job to Elvis Grbac 35 days after leading Baltimore to the Super Bowl title.

Then there's Scott Mitchell, who finished off three of the Bengals' four victories this past season and lost his job to Jon Kitna Thursday.

The Bengals plan to take four quarterbacks to training camp and coach Dick LeBeau wouldn't rule out signing Mitchell. But he also indicated he's quite comfortable with Kitna, Akili Smith and Scott Covington. Plus, there's still a shot the Bengals draft a quarterback starting in the third round.

Mitchell told bengals.com last week he couldn't understand why the club was talking to Kitna, Grbac, Brad Johnson and Gus Frerotte after they turned down his bid to get between $1.5 million and $2 million per year. He feels he's at least as good as any of the four although the club apparently disagreed after he had a poorer passing rating than Akili Smith.

Mitchell also couldn't figure out why the Bengals didn't offer him a raise from his $800,000 salary in '00. Kitna ended up getting $1.8 million per year for four years, say national sources.

They say Kitna got $4 million to sign with $500,000 salaries in '01 and '02 and $1 million in '03 and '04. Maxing out on play time and incentives would give Kitna $3 million per year.

It's believed the Bengals offered Frerotte the same $4 million bonus with $1 million in the first year, but they couldn't agree on an average if he played well or didn't play at all.

Which all means the Kitna era has begun and he had some eye openers right away in his first Bengals' news conference.

Can you believe a free-agent would say he was drawn to the Bengals because it's a team committed to defense? You would if he was coming from Seattle's last-ranked unit to the Bengals 22nd.

Kitna also revealed right away he's the anti-Carl Pickens and that he won't run for the presidency of the Cincinnati chapter of the Mike Holmgren Fan Club.

Here are bits and pieces:

Q: Did you sign the "Loyalty Clause"? (Which gives the Bengals the right to take back all or part of the signing bonus if he rips the team publicly.). Did you have problems with that?

KITNA: I have no problems about that. You'll find out quickly from me I'm not one to do anything through the media. . .If I have a problem, if there's something I'm not happy with, I'll just keep it to myself or I'll talk to a coach personally."

Q: What were some of the reasons for deciding to sign?

KITNA: We wanted to go to a place that had a coach with some integrity. I felt like (Dick LeBeau) shot straight. . .We wanted to be part of a team where they were committed to defense. . . .I realized this year that you need a defense. You can put points on the board, but if you don't have a defense, things can get sour real quick. . . I want to know that some days we can win a game 10-7 or 13-7." **

Q:What do you think you bring to the ballgame?

KITNA:** One thing I learned in my short time as a starter in two and a half years in this league is that I don't have to try to win games by myself. I'll try to get the ball in the hands of the guys who do that. In my case in Cincinnati, now that's Corey Dillon, Peter Warrick. That's Darnay Scott. That's Ron Dugans. Those are the guys that get paid to make plays. I'm getting paid to get them the ball and get them the ball where they can make plays.

" I think I bring a pretty good knowledge of the game to Cincinnati. I think I have better than average mobility. I can move around and make some things happen on the run and I think I'm a fairly intelligent quarterback. I think I can come in here and hopefully get us going in the right direction. Certainly knowing (offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski's) system is going to help a lot.

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