A season after he said he expected 10 victories for a franchise that had not been to the playoffs since 1999, the 12-year veteran said he and his teammates won't settle for less in 2008.
"Our expectation is we will be disappointed if we don't win 10 games," Kitna following a Tuesday training session. "Because that will mean we're not in the playoffs and that sucks.
"I can't make it any simpler than that. Anybody who says that's not their expectation level is not much of a competitor."
Fans have heard this before from the leader of a team that opened last season with a bang, then burned out far short of the finish line.
The Lions awakened playoff dreams after a 6-2 start but vanished from postseason contention by losing their next six games. Kitna's expectations became a hot topic for local newspapers and radio stations as Detroit's tailspin grew worse.
The club finished 7-9, its best record since Matt Millen became president in 2001, but still found itself home watching the playoffs.
Kitna said he expects even more pressure this season, mostly because of the departure of offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
Martz was criticized for neglecting the running game in favor of a complex passing system that exposed the quarterback to too many sacks. Sure enough, the Lions gave up an NFL-worst 117 sacks in their two seasons under Martz.
"The pressure was on him last season to call the plays and get people involved," Kitna said. "This is going to be a new responsibility for me, but I welcome that."
New offensive coordinator Jim Colletto plans to install a zone-rushing scheme he hopes will bring some balance to the Lions' attack. He didn't proclaim Kitna the starter when he was promoted in January, but head coach Rod Marinelli did.
"Jon finished the season as our starter, and he goes into this season as our starter," he said. "Obviously, things can change. Guys lose their jobs all the time. But Jon's our starter."
Kitna wasn't worried about it.
"I'm pretty well established as a leader of this football team and Rod has never wavered from that," he said. Kitna took every snap during the 2006 season and missed part of last season's home opener after a hard hit knocked him woozy.
Martz, fired by the Lions after the end of the season, was hired in the same capacity by San Francisco.
Detroit drafted offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus with the 17th pick last month and selected Central Florida tailback Kevin Smith late in the draft. Smith could find a spot in the backfield right away after the departures of Kevin Jones and T.J. Duckett, who accounted for nearly all of Detroit's rushing yardage last season.
Detroit begins a three-day mandatory minicamp May 20 and opens training camp in late July.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press