Bears announce Orton as starting quarterback

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Kyle Orton was selected to be the Chicago Bears starting quarterback by coach Lovie Smith on Monday.

Orton won the competition with Rex Grossman for the starting job.

Orton, the fourth-year player from Purdue, will start Thursday's third preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers and the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.

"I think I've just continued to get better in the preseason -- in the games and in practice -- so this will be another step to take," Orton said.

Orton and Grossman began battling for the starting spot in May's minicamp and the workouts in June. Then the competition intensified in training camp.

"To come to a decision like that, we've taken a lot of things into consideration: Last year, how [Orton] finished the season ... training camp, preseason games," Smith said. "In the end, it comes down to a gut feeling that you have.

"I feel good about Kyle leading our team."

Orton completed 63.2 percent of his preseason passes (12-for-19) for 99 yards with a passer rating of 76.4, but had no completions longer than 17 yards. Grossman completed 13-for-23 for 118 yards. Grossman threw a 25-yard touchdown pass.

Orton did not get the team into the end zone, but did direct a two-minute drill to a field goal Saturday at Seattle. Grossman threw an interception.

Statistics alone didn't lead to the decision, Smith said.

"Completions, turnovers, to just the feeling we have on who can manage the game the best for us, all of things like that," Smith said. "And the good thing about evaluating both Rex and Kyle, we've had a long time to do it. It's been quite a few years we've had a chance to see both guys play."

Orton started 15 games as a rookie before starting the final three games last season. When Orton was a rookie, he ran an easier version of the offense. Now he's running the full offense.

The competition actually began last December when the team put Orton in the starter's role after Grossman suffered a knee sprain. Orton led the team to a 2-1 record with three touchdown passes and two interceptions.

Grossman, who quarterbacked the team to the Super Bowl after the 2006 season and has 30 career starts, did not make himself available to the media after practice.

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