Kitna warms to Bengals

4-02-01, 7:45 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

As quarterback Jon Kitna dropped back to throw his first passes as a Bengal Monday, you had to wonder at irony.

Here is quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson directing the "42-Yard Drill," at Paul Brown Stadium. It's the fly pattern an old quarterbacks coach of Anderson's named Bill Walsh conjured up as the perfect length for the long bomb.

And there is Kitna, the guy not supposed to be able to go long, lofting the ball down the field pretty well.

"That's what seems to be the rap," Kitna said. "Bill Walsh came out with that after my first game ever to start, against the Raiders. He said I didn't have an arm and that seems to be the thing that has stuck and . . .we'll see, we'll see."

Kitna, 28, a man heavily involved in the Christian church, started to say something. But stopped.

"We'll see," he said again.

Kitna liked what he saw on his first day of the Bengals' voluntary off-season workout program. The club takes some heat for not getting great attendance until the on-field football practices later in the spring, but Kitna thinks the Bengals are a huge step up from his days in Seattle.

After Kitna and Scott Covington took turns

throwing to receivers Peter Warrick, Ron Dugans, LaVell Boyd and Chad Plummer, Kitna was amazed. Seattle apparently had more players at its workouts (the Bengals had about 15 Monday), but they came in staggered shifts.

So an organized, voluntary throwing session turned out to be a treat.

"Having guys here and working and running full speed and not complaining about it," Kitna said. "It looks like they enjoy their job. (Seattle wasn't) as organized. . .It might happen, but (there was) a lot of complaining going on. Guys really didn't want to be out there a lot."

As for those 42-yarders, Kitna said, "we ran go routes at the end there. You would have heard a lot of chirping going on in Seattle. (The Bengals) really ran them. I like that. Guys want to work. It just seems like they enjoy their job."

Akili Smith, Kitna's competition for the starting job who has been here the past three weeks, didn't attend Monday's workout. So Kitna had plenty of time to get acquainted with Warrick.

"He works hard," Kitna said. "I'm sure for them it's early. It's early for us. There are no lines (on the field) out there yet. You can't go out there and see the discipline, the routes, the speed. Again, I felt really good."

Maybe the best part of the day was after practice. As he sat at his locker, Kitna saw the receivers head past him with a basketball.

"What do you have going on there?" Kitna asked.

"C'mon," they said. "Right down the hall, first door on the right."

An hour later, Kitna, a gym rat who virtually grew up in a Tacoma Boys and Girls Club, returned to the locker room drenched in the sweat validating his reputation as a team player who gets along with all corners of the locker room.

"Bonding," Warrick said.

"And he's got some game, too," Boyd said.

Kitna also did some bonding with running back Corey Dillon. Dillon, a Seattle native, hugged his acquaintance from across the bridge in Tacoma.

Kitna told him he wanted to get involved in Dillon's one-day football camp he runs every July for about 120 inner-city children from in and around his old neighborhood. Dillon also seemed interested in helping out Kitna's bowling and golf tournaments for kids.

"Jon's a good dude," Dillon said.

Kitna and his wife figure to settle on their new Cincinnati-area home by Tuesday, so they might be able to move in next month with their two children ages, 3 and 2.

Kitna plans to work out at PBS through Friday and then get back to Seattle for his brother's wedding. He'll spend the month of May here for the mandatory May 4-7 minicamp and for four veteran voluntary camps.

As for Dillon, the NFL's most famous free agent, he's not working out with the team. He doesn't have a contract, but the club is delighted he feels comfortable enough to stop by, play some basketball, work up a sweat and visit.

"No comment," Dillon said.

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