5-1-02, 7:00 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Wednesday's signing of Gus Frerotte has left Bengals No. 1 quarterback Jon Kitna perplexed. But he's also excited about this weekend's minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium that marks the offense's second year in coordinator Bob Bratkowski's scheme.
"I think we're going to do things that people even in our own building don't expect we're going to do," Kitna said from his hometown of Tacoma, Wash., before flying to Cincinnati Thursday. "I've been saying it all along. Give things time and it's going to work."
But after an offseason that looked to end with him as the unquestioned starter when the Bengals didn't draft a rookie or sign a veteran quarterback, Kitna is wary of a similar quarterback competition that sapped the last training camp.
Head coach Dick LeBeau has said Kitna's competition with Frerotte is no different than any other depth-chart battle. The Bengals maintain they didn't feel comfortable with untried Scott Covington and questionable Akili Smith (hamstring) heading into training camp as the only players behind Kitna.
"The grass is not always greener," Kitna said. "I'm not afraid of the competition, but I just don't think it's the best thing for the team. There's confusion now about who is
the leader and who is the quarterback and there is four more months of that until the season even starts. I just don't think it helps the team."
That said, Kitna welcomes Frerotte as a player he knows through former Seattle teammate John Friesz. Plus, he's looking forward to hooking up again this weekend with the guys who helped him end the season with two comeback wins over Pittsburgh and Tennessee with 751 yards passing yards.
Kitna knows he's fighting perception and that he's always going to have to fight for a job as the undrafted NAIA college free agent.
"I'll always be in that situation no matter what," Kitna said. "Once there's a perception of you, that's it. I know what it is of me. I don't have the arm strength, I turn it over. But I think if you go back and look at those 22 interceptions last year, I was happy with my decision-making for the most part. Eight or nine of those come from the things that happen when you play football."
Kitna was more than competent in the six games the Bengals won, throwing seven touchdowns and four interceptions. In the 10 losses, he threw five touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
"We feel like we needed another veteran guy with Akili trying to come back from an injury," said Bengals President Mike Brown. "There's always competition. Gus Frerotte is a proven player who can help us."
Kitna had hoped this would be the first year of his career he could go into a training camp as the pure No. 1 with pretty much no controversy. On Wednesday, he talked about one of his recent golfing partners.
"This guy has shot in the 60s the last couple of times and I told him that he's boring," Kitna said. "In the fairway, on the green, the same thing. He told me, 'Boring is good.' You don't always have to stir the pot."