Veteran backup quarterback Jon Kitna always felt that this past season would be his last.
However, it ended a little faster than he planned when he suffered a back injury in practice in November.
He didn’t go on injured reserve until Dec. 15 as the Cowboys held out hope that he would improve before other injuries forced them to clear a roster spot.
“We were in practice on Wednesday and I was running scout team,” Kitna recalled. “I twisted the wrong way and herniated the disk. I always had a bulging disk. It finally herniated. I knew once I got put on injured reserve it was over.
"I always felt it was my last year anyway. Now I was sure. Like I told Jason [Garrett] when I hurt my back, ‘I’m no longer someone you can count on health wise.’ I felt it was time.”
Kitna went home to Tacoma, Wash., to be with his family even before he was put on injured reserve. He said it was tough watching the Cowboys go through an up-and-down season from afar. But he said it was right for him and right for third-stringer Stephen McGee, who was now the backup.
“I always felt like you were a distraction or a help,” Kitna said. “I felt the best way for me and the best way for Stephen to grow into that role was for me to not be around, so he could grab a hold of it. I felt it would be selfish to stay around.”
Kitna leaves the game with no regrets, because he actually never thought he’d make it this far after going undrafted out of college at Central Washington in 1997.
But he started in NFL Europe before landing with the Seahawks. He spent 16 years in the NFL with three teams, including the Bengals and the last three years with the Cowboys at Tony Romo’s primary backup.
“I have no regrets,” Kitna said. “Sixteen years, I can’t believe it. I was trying to get one year. I played 16. It’s been a blessing. It lasted longer than I thought it would.”
Regarding the Cowboys, Kitna said fans should not give up hope. He believes there were far more positives than negatives in 2011, and they will get it turned around. He also leaves the game as a big fan of Romo, whom he calls the right guy for the job.
“Tony had a phenomenal year,” Kitna said. “He had the best year since I have been here. Everybody who knows the game would say it was the best of his career and he has had a lot of good ones. He’s continued to get better every year. He is the right guy for the job.”
-- Clarence Hill