Lions in den

Posted: 6 p.m.

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With the Bengals trying to go to 2-0 in the preseason for just the fourth time in the past 20 seasons when they play the Lions at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday at 7:35 p.m., now is a good time to look at the team up the road.

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According to STATS Inc., the Colts have a 21-game winning streak in games played before November, a skein that stretches back to the start of the 2005 season. In that same stretch Indy is 2-11 in the preseason, including losses to the Bengals in each preseason finale since '05 that they followed with Opening Day wins.

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The first-team Lions, led by former Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna, figure to play between 18-22 snaps Sunday as Kitna opposes the man he mentored for three seasons. Since Carson Palmer supplanted Kitna as the No. 1 QB in 2004, he has compiled a regular-season record of 32-29 compared to the 46 starting victories Kitna has in 11 previous seasons with three different clubs. He had 18 with the Bengals and 10 the past two years in Detroit.

How hard is it to win in the NFL? Of the 58 active quarterbacks listed by the NFL heading into the '08 season who have at least 10 starts, 26 have a winning record and only half of them have more than Palmer's 32 wins. And only 13 of the 58 have more wins than Kitna.

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After watching Kitna on tape Thursday, former teammate John Thornton warned the kids on the defensive line, "He's a competitive guy who'll use the quick count, the hard count. He'll run around in the backfield and he'll give up ground to get ground."

Thornton remembers how Kitna remained a locker-room leader in 2004 and 2005 even though he was the backup.

"First off, he's a great guy," Thornton said. "He never gave up on himself. He doesn't get a lot of the credit that he deserves and there are guys in this league like that. They play a long time and people criticize them and they end up in double-digit years. They must be doing something right. But he's never going to have the strongest arm and people are always looking to replace him, but he always finds a way to beat the odds."

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It's unknown if No. 1 pick Keith Rivers is going to make the first of his many Bengals starts at WILL linebacker against the Lions. But new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is sure about one thing: Rivers will get better after he has more than five practices, which is what he had under his belt when he led the team with seven solo tackles Monday in Green Bay.

"Honestly, there were a lot athletic-ability plays," Zimmer said. "He's still slow reading and knowing exactly where he's supposed to be. I like him. He's what we thought he was in the spring (camps). He's a little unsure of himself now compared to then."

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By the way, Thornton likes what Zimmer is doing with the defense, but he is quick to say it's no reflection on the man that had the job, Chuck Bresnahan.

"Chuck's a good coach," Thornton said. "I think it's a different set of eyes. I heard Marvin (Lewis) say that. You won't have the carryover with a new guy. It's a different approach, but it's still being accountable, still being in your gap. I think there's a little more emphasis on teaching and communication. Who knows if that will help? We're trying to communicate a little more and understand what everybody is doing."

The thing Zimmer liked most about Monday night against the Packers is the run fits. Not the tackling, but that guys were in the right place.

"Nobody was running wide open," Thornton said.

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The guy Lewis and Zimmer need to tackle is free safety Marvin White. He certainly is living up to his college rep as a hitter, but it's going to cost him. $7,500 to be exact for the use of his helmet against the Packers Monday night.

According to The Green Bay Press-Gazette, White got fined for a hit (but not flagged) in the second quarter that gave wide receiver Ruvell Martin a concussion, bruised jaw, and probably a spot on the bench in Saturday night's game in San Francisco. The paper said the NFL ruled White hit Martin hit in the chest with his head but quoted Martin saying he was hit in the jaw with "probably the best shot I've ever taken. ... I got blasted in my jaw and was out. That happens. It's football. Everyone's running around there trying to hit each other and hit each other hard, and the guy got me."

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But that wasn't White's most spectacular hit in the game. A few moments earlier he had come across the middle to knock off the helmet of James Jones, a receiver carrying 20 more pounds than White and White didn't wrap him up as Jones finished off a 30-yard touchdown sans helmet.

"You've got to wrap up; NFL receivers are big," said White after the game. "It's not like college, where you pretty much hit a guy and he goes down. I learned something from this game. That's the idea learn something every game."

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Assistant secondary coach in charge of the safeties, Louie Cioffi, loves White's aggressiveness.

"There's no question about his willingness to hit and to be physical, but his technique, his ability to wrap up needs work," Cioffi said. "And we do work on it in practice. Not only from the standpoint of getting a guy down, but from doing it for player safety."

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Chris Henry update: Marvin Frazier, one of his representatives, said Saturday night he hasn't spoken to the Bengals in a while and doesn't expect his client to sign with a club until everyone gets back from training camp next week.

Some players are privately against the move, but Thornton, the Bengals defensive captain last season, understands if the Bengals re-sign him.

"If he's going to play for anybody in the league, why not here?" Thornton asked. "The Bengals took a lot of crap for him. Why let him go somewhere else, and he goes plays for Dallas and he becomes a superstar? He knows this offense.

"If he screws up, he's done. It's a one-strike policy. If everybody is comfortable, if the NFL is comfortable with it ... in my opinion, as a friend and a player, I think the locker room would light up just to see him back because everybody's been reading about how tough it's been with him with foreclosures and all that."

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Rookie free-agent offensive lineman Justin Britt cleared waivers and has reverted to the Bengals season-ending Reserve/Injured list.

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