Orton Thinks Bears are Still His Team

QB Kyle Orton (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

No matter what general manager Jerry Angelo said at the end of last year, Kyle Orton believes he is the quarterback of the present – and the future – for the Chicago Bears. 2008's injury-riddled second half is a distant memory at this point. Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at Scout.com.

Evidently, Bears quarterback Kyle Orton has thicker skin than Broncos diva Jay Cutler.

Orton has shrugged off general manager Jerry Angelo's stated desire to "stabilize" the quarterback position.

"It doesn't really mean a whole lot to me," Orton said Tuesday afternoon after the first practice of a three-day minicamp. "I think I'm going to do everything I can and work as hard as I can and be the guy that stabilizes it. I don't think [Angelo] is saying that I'm not going to be the guy. I'm going to be that guy. I think this is my offense. I'm just working as hard as I can to show everybody that it's my job."

Orton's play was exceptional last season through the first seven games. But in Game 8 he suffered a sprained ankle, and after that his production plummeted. Orton threw 10 touchdown passes with just four interceptions before the injury. Afterward, he had eight touchdown passes and eight picks. The Bears were 5-3 in the first half of the season and 4-4 in the second half, when, Orton said, his ankle bothered him more than he and the Bears let on.

"I wasn't healthy," said Orton, who missed just one start but was shaky in his first game back, a 37-3 loss to the Packers. "I came out and tried to lead my football team and tried to do whatever I could to win. I'd make the same decision again if it happened. It was unfortunate, and I didn't play as well as I would have liked to. There's always circumstances around that, but I'm happy with what I did trying to go out and play hurt and lead my football team."

Orton rebounded with a solid game against the lowly Rams, but his passer rating was under 50 in three of the next four games.

"My ankle wasn't nearly where it should have been," Orton said. "I was hobbling around, and my entire leg wasn't healthy. That's just how it goes. It's a tough game."

So rather than be offended by Angelo's tough love, Orton has taken the GM's comments in the spirit in which it was intended.

"It's the most important position," Orton said, echoing Angelo's comments. "You've got to get it right, and he's got to know it's right. I think that I'm that guy. I feel like with my work and my play, I'm just going to make him believe that it's right as well and end up being the guy here for a long time."

So, Orton was asked, is it fair to say that this is your football team?

"Until I'm told differently," he said, "that's how I go about it."


Orton needs lots of help from Turner and Hester this year. (Charles Arbogast/AP Images)

NEWS AND NOTES
Coming off a 51-catch season with a team-best 665 receiving yards, Devin Hester is the only player on the roster who can be considered even close to a No. 1 wide receiver. And with no help expected in free agency, he's destined to be the main man again – unless the Bears happen to strike gold in the draft.

"It's important for me to play like a No. 1 receiver," Hester said. "That's my biggest goal. I feel like I have the ability to play as a No. 1 receiver, and I'm feeling real good and confident. Kyle is coming out here throwing great passes and organizing the receivers and putting them in the right spots. That's what it's all about, being on the same page as the quarterback."

Asked if Hester could be a go-to guy in the passing game, head coach Lovie Smith seemed comfortable with the idea.

"You talked to Devin, right?" Smith said. "What did he tell you? He told you he was the No. 1 receiver, right? He definitely has No. 1 receiver-type ability. At the end of [last] year, Devin was definitely playing like a No. 1 receiver. And I'm excited about this second year of him being a full-time wide receiver."

In his last six games last season, Hester caught 25 passes for 347 yards. At that pace over 16 games, he'd have 67 receptions for 925 yards. …

Considering offensive left tackle Chris Williams had back surgery before the preseason even started last year and then sat, watched and rehabbed for seven games before making his NFL debut, it might have seemed like his rookie season lasted forever.

But the first-round pick, who is being given the starting job to lose, keeps it in perspective while putting it in the past.

"It wasn't as long for me as it was for [running back] Matt [Forte], who played like 20 games," Williams said. "But still, it was a long year mentally because of going through the surgery and all that. It was a lot all in one year, but I'm ready to roll now."

Williams was asked if he had any lingering health problems.

"No, there's nothing wrong," he said. "You want to examine me or something?" …

Unrestricted free agent offensive lineman John St. Clair, who started 16 games at left tackle for the Bears last season, signed a three-year, $9 million deal with the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday, about the same time the Bears were coming off the practice field at Halas Hall.

The Bears, whose mediocre offensive line has already been weakened by the retirement of right tackle John Tait last week, wanted St. Clair back. They currently have just three tackles on their roster with a combined total of one start in the NFL.

The one start belongs to Frank Omiyale, who was signed early in free agency, but he was working with the second team at left guard Tuesday. Williams is penciled in at left tackle, so that left Cody Balogh at right tackle. Balogh was undrafted last year and spent the season on the Bears' practice squad.

After Tuesday's minicamp practice, the first of the three-day session, Smith addressed the right tackle position before news reached Halas Hall of St. Clair's signing.

"We would like to sign John, like we've said all along," Smith said. "We hope we can get that done, but we have some options in case John isn't a part of our plans this year."

One option is moving Omiyale to tackle, where he is more comfortable. Another is drafting another tackle early in the draft and signing one of the leftover free agents still on the market.

"It's still the offseason," Smith said. "We keep all options open at all times. We like our group of offensive linemen that we have now, but adding another guy would just make us stronger."

On Wednesday, Omiyale was moved to first-team right tackle. …

Angelo has hinted that former Pro Bowl corner back Nathan Vasher has to be more productive than he has in the past two injury-riddled seasons to regain his starting job from Corey Graham.

Vasher understands the challenge.

"Rightfully so," he said. "I think it's more or less, 'What have you done lately?' You have to go out and prove yourself every year and be able to contribute to the team. It's definitely a privilege to be in the NFL and to play on any roster. I'm going to have an opportunity to come out and fly around before the draft so the coaches can evaluate and see exactly what direction we're going to head."

Vasher missed eight games last season with hand injuries and 12 in 2007 with a torn groin muscle. But he says he can regain the form he flashed in his first two seasons (2004-05), when he had 13 interceptions and played all 32 games.

"I feel great now," he said.


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