Jon Kitna: 'It is getting close to that time'

SAN ANTONIO -- Practice ends but Jon Kitna does not leave the Alamodome field.

He quickly moves from the Dallas Cowboys' backup quarterback to become a dad and coach.

For the next 20 minutes, Kitna acts as quarterback guru to his oldest son, Jordan, 13, who throws passes to the sons of some team executives. The young Kitna takes the snap from his father's hand, drops back and throws a tight spiral most of the time.

After each play, whether the pass is on line or flutters, the father gives another reminder or tip to his son, whose football practice begins in three weeks back in Washington.

"I just think it's really a unique situation to have your son be 13 and you're still in the league," Kitna said. "For me, this is father-son time that you can't have back. It's a great experience for him. He has three weeks until they start school and start football and he felt like, 'Dad, I want to use three weeks in training camp for you to train me and get ready.' It's special to have this time."

Kitna turns 39 in September. This is his 15th year in the NFL and third with the Cowboys. He is in the final year of his contract and for the first time in his playing career his family will not be with him when the season starts. They will remain in Washington but fly in occasionally.

He understands retirement is not far off.

"I've always had the mindset of, 'Man, if this is going to be my last year, let's make it special,' and I've had that mindset for a long time now," Kitna said. "So for me it's just wait and see at the end of the year, but it is getting close to that time."

If his career ends in 2012, Kitna will be prepared to move on to the next stage of his life.

He has long said he will become a high school teacher and football coach in his hometown of Tacoma, Wash.

For the first time since grade school he was not around a football in the offseason. The lockout prevented the normal activities with the Cowboys. He remained in Washington to tend to his family, which kept him from the player-run workouts in Southlake, Texas, in May.

"Having the lockout was a glimpse of [life] for me," Kitna said. "It's going to be different for me, but I have a plan for after football. I have an incredible family with an awesome wife. I think I have a replacement for [the NFL life]. A lot of guys don't have a replacement for that and it'll happen sooner than they want it to."

As he did in Seattle, Cincinnati and Detroit, he tells players to be ready for the future. Some have listened. Some haven't.

"Most guys know [it will end] but don't plan for it, you know what I mean?" Kitna said. "Eighty percent of the guys end up divorced, bankrupt or addicted to drugs one year out of the league. That's a staggering number and those haven't changed for 20 years. The guys know it. We're more educated than we've ever been in this league but we still see guys continue to struggle after the game is over."

Because he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent from Central Washington, Kitna's perspective is different from many players. He spent 1996 on Seattle's practice squad and played in the World Football League in 1997.

Early on in his career when the phone would ring, he'd wonder if the plan he had in place for his post-football life would start sooner than he wanted.

Having started 125 games, throwing for nearly 30,000 yards with 168 touchdowns, Kitna has accomplished more than he could have imagined, and he is now pouring that knowledge on to his son.

"My youngest is 5 and they're old enough to remember what dad did and they think that's pretty neat," Kitna said. "My son's been in the locker room with me since he was 12 months old. He's been around it but for the first time this year I heard him say, 'Man, it's pretty cool I get to go to training camp and hang out with Jason Witten, Miles Austin and my dad. He's really starting to understand it's not normal."

Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.