Reeves changes QBs: Kittner in, Johnson out

Updated: October 15, 2003, 7:31 PM ET

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Mired in a five-game losing streak, the Atlanta Falcons are changing quarterbacks, giving Kurt Kittner his first career start.

Kittner, a second-year player from Illinois, will replace Doug Johnson when the Falcons (1-5) host the New Orleans Saints (2-4) on Sunday.

"You have to make some tough decisions," coach Dan Reeves said Wednesday after practice. "We've been struggling for five weeks, and I just feel like we need to make a change. I told Doug I feel badly. Everybody on offense should, because he's the one who gets the blame for it."

Johnson, who stepped in as the starter when Pro Bowler Michael Vick broke his right leg in a preseason game, leads the NFL with 10 interceptions.

"It's not my decision," Johnson said. "I'm throwing it fine. That's not even an issue. It doesn't matter how well you throw the ball or your stats -- if you don't win, the easiest person to make a change with is the quarterback."

Kittner's numbers aren't too encouraging, either. He didn't play at all his rookie year and is just 7-for-17 for 53 yards this season. He also has thrown two interceptions, including one that was returned 74 yards for a touchdown in Monday night's 36-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams.

"I'm just trying to ... go out and do things I'm good at and take care of the football and make the most of the opportunity," Kittner said. "We're all striving for the same thing. We're all trying to put the bad stuff behind us and come out on the right side."

If nothing else, Reeves is counting on Kittner to cut down on the turnovers.

"I do think Kurt deserves the right to see what he can do," Reeves said. "Our room for error is not very good. We can't afford to have the interceptions and those kinds of things."

Kittner has played in only two games, also mopping up in a 31-10 loss to Tampa Bay. His quarterback rating is an abysmal 9.8.

"He's not really had a chance," Reeves said. "I know he has the ability, or I wouldn't put him in there. I'm not throwing him to the wolves. I want to give him a chance and see how he does."

Vick did some light running while his teammates practiced, but he's still weeks away from returning. The earliest he could play would be Nov. 2 against Philadelphia, after a bye week.

The way Vick's recovery is going, it might be longer than that.

"I'm doing a lot of exercises," he said. "But the more I exercise, the more I get tired and weak. Every day is something different. Some days it's good, some days it's bad."

In the meantime, Vick will watch someone else try to do his job.

"I hope Kurt can give us a spark," Vick said. "Our main priority is to go out and get win No. 2. You know, that's about all we can do right now."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index