So You Don't Say


Before the first person even had time to ask James about Kitna's comments, whether he had heard them or not, Kitna's choice words from that interview like 11 months ago already had made their way to the bulletin board by the players' entrance . . . just in case anyone needed a reminder.

Evidently, Bradie didn't. Now he admits he never heard what Kitna had to say before the playoff game in Seattle, that 21-20 Seahawks win, and only caught up about a month later when someone informed him of what was said.

And as hard as this might be to believe (ahem), he hasn't forgotten.

"When we heard it after the year was over, it was like, 'Who is this guy talking about us after the game?'" James said. "It was classless . . . talking about another team.

"We'll be his worst nightmare."

Now it's not as if the Cowboys need ulterior motives to get ready for this game, even if they have just run off six consecutive victories - three straight against the NFC East and just defeated the erstwhile 10-1 Packers this past Thursday. Why, as Wade Phillips continues to remind his players, clinching a playoff berth is all that they have accomplished so far. That's it. No division title. No first-round bye. No home-field advantage. That's all going to take at least two more wins, possibly three, and they know three of the final four games are on the road.

They also remember last year, losing three of their final four games, so my guess, artificial stimuli will only enhance an acute awareness heading into this game against what should be a desperate Lions team after getting clocked by the rapidly improving Vikings, 42-10, on Sunday.

Even Cowboys owner Jerry Jones realizes that, saying here Monday of the Lions, "They've got everything to play for."

But so do the Cowboys, and now just a little more . . . especially the defense. Uh, especially James.

"He singled me out," said James, knowing after a game that's sort of an unspoken no-no in the league.

So were you mad?

"Of course it pissed me off," James said. "I don't know him. I don't want to know him. But he's going to know me."

Now we're talking.

Kitna by now, and at least by Tuesday, will realize the Cowboys play a different style of 3-4 under Phillips. More pressure on the quarterbacks, hence 33 team sacks, tied for third in the NFL heading into the Monday night game. That's one short of last year's total with four games to go, and Sunday they are playing a quarterback who has been sacked 47 times this year (Tony Romo has been sacked 16 times) following last year's 63-sack season.

Also, against multiple-receiver sets, the Cowboys deploy their personnel much differently than last year's stubbornly-static, two-linebacker sub-package or at times not subbing at all, which forced the outside linebackers into coverage and the inside guys to get outside with the running back.

And get this: James is a tad lighter, and even gets to run blitz at times. And he's not taking on the guard one-on-one to make plays. James is making them, too, leading the team with 100 tackles and currently on pace to better last year's team-high 132 tackles.

"I'm looking forward to our meeting with the Detroit quarterback Jon Kitna," said James, who went out of his way to point out he'll talk about it all week so long as someone asks.

Someone asked if this has been in the back of his mind for quite some time. James disagreed.

"It's not on the back of my brain," James said, "it's on my brain. It's on a lot of our minds."

Hey, whatever it takes, for as Phillips said when asked about the real significance of these all-too-common NFL dust-ups landing on bulletin boards, "I don't know if that stuff helps or not, but it's up there today, I know that." He smiled.

I know that, too, now.

You do, too.

And for sure, so does Bradie James, who was last heard here Monday saying, "Who is he? Who is he supposed to be?"

Jon Kitna, quarterback of the Detroit Lions, Central Washington University, whose words failed to disintegrate.

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