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Lions' Kitna talking big heading into training camp

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -Jon Kitna predicts the Detroit Lions will end a string of six double-digit loss seasons with at least 10 wins.

That's pretty heady stuff considering the Lions are the worst team in the NFL since 2001, have one playoff win since taking the NFL title in 1957 and haven't been in the postseason since 1999.

Yet, on the eve of training camp Wednesday, coach Rod Marinelli didn't have a problem with his quarterback's bravado.

"You have to be secure in what you're saying," said Marinelli, entering his second season in Detroit. "These guys are in the huddle. They've seen what we've brought in, some of the talent that's here.

"They feel good about it, and a big part of winning is a mind-set."

Consider defensive tackle Cory Redding among the converts.

"He added fuel to my fire," Redding said, clearly fired up by Kitna's comments. "It just gives you goose bumps and that sense of hope and that burning desire that you want from your quarterback.

"For Kitna to come out and say that, I stand behind him 100 percent."

Detroit was 3-13 last season, better than only Oakland, and has been the league's laughingstock with a 24-72 record since Matt Millen was given control of the franchise six years ago. The only other stretch of futility in league history that compares is Tampa Bay's 12 straight seasons of 10 losses or more from 1983-94.

The Lions' defense is a weak spot.

Cornerback Dre' Bly, defensive end James Hall and free safety Terrence Holt are gone, perhaps replaced by free agents Travis Fisher, Dewayne White and second-year pro Daniel Bullocks. Stanley Wilson, who ended last year as a starting cornerback, might get the nod ahead of Fisher.

"Some parts of our secondary people don't know a lot about yet," Marinelli said. "But when this system is really taught well, you don't put the corners on an island."

If the line can protect Kitna, the Mike Martz-directed offense could put up a lot of points.

Receiver Roy Williams has emerged as a star, converted defensive back Mike Furrey caught 98 passes last year and first-round draft choice Calvin Johnson - when he reports to camp - give Kitna viable targets.

"We have a chance to be really good in that area," Marinelli said.

Johnson, the second pick overall in the draft, is the only rookie the Lions didn't expect on the field for their first practice Thursday morning. They are optimistic Johnson will be signed within the next few days.

Injuries have put running back Kevin Jones (foot) and defensive tackle Shaun Rogers (knee) on the sidelines for the start of camp. With Jones likely out for a while, newly acquired running backs Tatum Bell and T.J. Duckett will get an opportunity to impress Marinelli.

Even so, the Lions might still seem a long way from 10 wins. But Redding said another reason he's optimistic is the team's improved chemistry after getting rid of some players who didn't seem to buy into Marinelli's intense program.

"You can't make a pecan pie with cherries on top," Redding said.

Then there is the obvious.

"When you're at the bottom," he said, "there's only one way to go."

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