Kitna in the prime

1-12-04, 3:55 p.m.

It is a watershed offseason for Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna. He's not only savoring the best year of his career, but he's also adjusting to the first winter of his life away from his native state of Washington. As always, Kitna never ducks a question and he didn't duck these five from Geoff Hobson when caught up with him the other day shopping with his family at the Kenwood Mall. **

GH: What is it about Cincinnati that made you want to stay here all-year round at your home in the West Chester area?**

JK: It's a lot of things. We like having the four different seasons. I just read the weather report in Seattle and it's going to rain for 10 straight days. We like the slower pace here and the conservative lifestyle. The communities around here are really into sports and that's a positive, and my cousin is really comfortable in school at Lakota East.

We're his guardians and it just didn't seem fair to keep moving him back and forth. He's a sophomore and he's playing varsity football and JV basketball and dressing for varsity basketball. He's 6-3 and a pretty good athlete. Plus, when you move, you spend two weeks packing before and two weeks after unpacking, and when you do it twice, that's two months out of 12. That can get old.

GH: You haven't had much time to unwind from the season at all and already the question is out there about you and Carson Palmer and who Marvin Lewis is going to name the No. 1 quarterback at minicamp. Are you ready to be a backup?

JK: I still think I've got some years starting left in me. I could be a backup at any time, but right now I just think I'm in the prime of my career. I'm not thinking about being a backup at the moment.

We haven't discussed any of it and the way I'm looking at is I've got a year left on my contract and I'm going to try and play the best I can play. Unquestionably, it's a unique situation, but I've done what I've done and I was very blessed this year. The reality of it is, as well as you play, you can never please everybody and the grass is always greener, and that's how it is for 90 percent of the guys in this league. I'm going to continue to trust in God. I'm not worried about it. It's not causing me huge stress. I'm excited about what this team can do next year and the rest of it is really in their court. From what I can see, they've got the next move. **

GH: How close was the team this year and what do you need to get over the hump in '04?**

JK: We were just three plays away. The interception in Oakland (cornerback Phillip Buchanon's pick at the Raiders 17 with 3:46 left in a 13-13 game that got returned for a touchdown), and a couple of first downs in Buffalo and we're 10-6 and win the division. But if you win those games, the whole thing is different. Who knows? We could have ended up 12-4 with all that momentum and confidence.

What we need to do is to get deeper across the board, and I know Marvin is going to work to get it here and improve the depth. Late in the year, we got hit with several injuries and it hurt us. It cost us some football games.

GH: What were you most memorable moments this year?

JK: When Jeff Burris intercepted that ball against Cleveland and Marvin got his first victory, that was awesome. The win over Seattle was special, since it was my old team. There aren't a lot of teams in the league where I know so many guys, so it felt good to win. The slant route to Chad (Johnson for the winning 53-yard TD), Rudi's (18-yard) touchdown run. It was a fun game. I loved it the whole time. And it was nice because the people back home in Seattle don't get to see us on TV very much at all, but that was one they saw. **

GH: The biggest part of your life is your faith. Has last season's success put you in more demand to speak? Have you been surprised at the popularity of the cross ball caps, which got so much attention when the league fined you for wearing one during a post-game press conference? Have you found a church here?**

Last year back in Seattle we went through about 400 to 500 requests in the offseason. We haven't had that many now because I don't think people know where to find me, but I'm sure it will end up being a substantial amount.

That's something that bothers me in church and in life. There are countless of very inspiring stories of how Christ has changed people's lives and how his works have impacted people's lives, and the stories don't get heard because the people are not so-called celebrities. There's more to it than just names.

We don't have a church here, but we belong to one back in Washington. A few weekends ago we visited the Vineyard at Tri-County and we really enjoyed that church. We're looking at a couple. We still tithe 10 percent of our salary to the church and another 10 percent to foundations sponsoring Christ's work for children as well as athletes.

The hat has been interesting. I wasn't trying to promote myself. I was just letting it speak for itself, what it stands for and I what I believe in. Now, I'm out here shopping and I would say in the last half hour about five people have asked me to autograph that hat for them. They're not making much money on them, I know that. Something like five bucks, but that's not the point. Anything that draws interest to the cross of Christ.

I was surprised a little bit (by the hat's popularity), but it just goes to show that the world we live in, with all its cares and interests, the only thing that truly matters is what you do for the reality of the cross of Christ.

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