IRVING, Texas – Jon Kitna greeted the reporters surrounding him like old friends at a reunion – which was fitting, in a sense.
It's been a few years since Kitna faced the scrutiny of the Cowboys media, but he slipped right back into the spotlight Wednesday as the latest figure in the team's injury-riddled saga.
"It definitely felt funny – definitely," he said with a laugh.
This time last week, Kitna was at home in Tacoma, Wash., where he is an algebra teacher and a football coach at Lincoln High School.
Rather than go through the rigors of a tryout, it was actually Kitna who contacted the Cowboys when he heard Tony Romo was hampered by a back injury. Kitna said he had a short conversation with Cowboys coach Jason Garrett – before he even consulted his family.
"I saw Tony got hurt, and I told Jason if he needed somebody to come in that could call a play, be able to pull a play off if a bad situation happened, I'd be willing to do that," he said.
Garrett, for his part, wasn't sure if Kitna – a 16-year veteran, who retired two years ago – was serious.
"That was first question out of his mouth. Like I said, it's not like I've been sitting around, staying in shape, hoping I get another shot – my career is done," he said. "I just felt like, with the situation that they're in, I might be able to help in an emergency situation." [embedded_ad]
That emergency is going to land Kitna a lot of work as the Cowboys prepare for Philadelphia. The team still hopes Romo will be available for the game, but Kyle Orton is currently preparing as the starter, and Kitna will run the scout team.
Kitna runs the scout team for his high school team, which he said shared the league title this season. That's obviously quite a departure from NFL football, but he said things were returning quickly to him from his three-year stint with the Cowboys.
"Just trying to catch up to the speed and get back to the lingo," he said. "Our high school plays aren't quite as long as what they call here, but it's a lot of the same stuff they were running when I was here. It was good – it came back quick."
Playing With Mo
For the first time in nearly a month, Morris Claiborne took his helmet with him to practice Wednesday.
Claiborne has either been held out entirely or severely limited since he re-injured his hamstring in the Nov. 24 win against New York. He hopes to change that this week, however, starting with full participation at the Cowboys' Christmas practice.
"Everything was good. I felt good, participated in everything, went through all drills – wasn't limited at all," Claiborne said.
That's welcome news for a team that is currently missing its quarterback, Romo, as well as its defensive leader in Sean Lee. Going all the way back to training camp, Claiborne has been hampered by one issue or another for much of this season.
The second-year corner acknowledged his frustration with the situation, but he said he's just trying to stay focused on what's in front of him – the season finale against the Eagles.
"It's always been something, but I can't control that. I can just control where I'm at," he said. "I'm feeling good now, so I'm taking advantage of this opportunity I have right now to just go out and play football."
There'd be no better time for a return. Claiborne hasn't played in a month, but he didn't need to be reminded of what's at stake Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
"This is a playoff game right here, and we're trying to approach it that way," he said.
Harris Confident About Hamstring
The Cowboys' practice report listed Dwayne Harris as a limited participant Wednesday, but that's not what Harris thought.
"I practiced the whole practice today," he said.
That's great news for the Cowboys' special teams. The team released veteran returner Micheal Spurlock on Wednesday to make room for Kitna.
Spurlock managed a 62-yard punt return with his first touch as a Cowboy, so it seems doubtful he'd be released if Harris was unavailable because of the hamstring injury he's been dealing with for several weeks.
Harris cleared up that doubt, as well.
"I'm good. I'm playing this week, so I'll be alright," he said.
The Cowboys' dynamic returner hurt the hamstring in the same game as Claiborne, Nov. 24 against the Giants. He attempted to return against Chicago on Dec. 9, but he re-aggravated the problem.
This time around, he doesn't think it will be a problem.
"I've been rehabbing, running, trying to get the hammy back strong, so I feel confident right now," Harris said.