Harrison’s hit on Orton sends scare into Broncos

Tim Tebow’s ill-fated dart into the end zone earlier this month
sparked quite the conversation among his devotees and his haters
alike: Can the former Florida star survive in the NFL if he doesn’t
tone down his bruising running style?

Kyle Orton, for one, was squarely in his corner. The Denver
Broncos’ starting quarterback said he’d have done the exact same
thing as Tebow did when he dashed for the goal line on the final
play of his pro debut even though two defenders rendered the rookie
a human sandwich with bruised ribs.

”Try to score every play that you can,” Orton said. ”And if
that’s the option, then that’s what you’ve got to do.”

Even though it’s the preseason, where stats don’t count but the
aches hurt just the same.

So, it was no surprise Sunday night when Orton found himself as
the last line of defense as Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison
was rumbling downfield after picking up a fumble that would be

Harrison saw Orton go low for the tackle along the sideline and
he put his helmet down and hit Orton head on, leaving the
quarterback shaken, the Broncos miffed and their fans wondering if
this summer-long injury epidemic had claimed yet another key

”I don’t know if I went after him or he went after me,” Orton
said. ”You have to try to save a touchdown and took a pretty
decent shot, yeah.”

Orton said that while he only had the wind knocked out him, it
was obvious that Harrison went down to meet him head on, and
Broncos coach Josh McDaniels stopped just short of calling
Harrison’s hit a cheap shot.

”It kind of looked like Harrison knew he was going to go low
and then he took the liberty to go ahead and go after the
quarterback,” McDaniels said.

That’s just football, Harrison countered.

”I play aggressively,” he said. ”I was going to the ground
and wanted to get as many yards as I could.”

As it turns out, it was all for naught as the officials quickly
huddled and ruled it an incomplete pass.

Brady Quinn came in for one snap, was sacked on a blitz and the
Broncos punted. When Denver got the ball back, Orton was under
center again, much to the relief of the Broncos and their fluttered
fan base.

As ballyhooed as their arrivals were this spring, neither Tebow
nor Quinn look anywhere near ready to take over Denver’s offense if
Orton gets hurt.

Judging by the rotation and their performances Thursday night,
it appears that Tebow has moved up in the pecking order ahead of

Tebow was erratic: he telegraphed an interception but came back
to drive Denver 74 yards on five plays for a 3-yard touchdown
strike to fellow rookie Eric Decker,

”Just up and down out there,” Tebow said. ”Some good things,
some bad things – and a lot of things I’ve got to go work on and
get a lot better at.”

One thing he did much better this time was stay in the pocket.
He didn’t scramble at all in completing half of his 10 passes for
72 yards.

For the first time since Denver made him a surprise first-round
pick in the draft, Tebow looked like a bona fide NFL pocket passer
Thursday night.

”Trying to be,” Tebow said. ”Just trying to do what I’m

”We’re not calling plays for him to run the ball. That’s just
the bottom line,” McDaniels said. ”When he went in there, we
wanted him to throw the ball from the pocket, we wanted to do some
things and test him, see how he did, see how he handled it and none
of the things that we were doing were designed scrambles or
designed runs.

”And I told him, too, if he scrambles again, get down, you
know? That would be better for all of us.”

While Tebow looked a lot better, Quinn appeared stuck in
neutral, although he was playing with the second- and
third-stringers when he went just 1-for-2 for 2 yards in mop-up
duty against the Steelers.

”I may not always look statistically good,” said Quinn, who
insisted he was nevertheless making progress in McDaniels’
intricate offense.

Still, he might have already been supplanted by Tebow as Orton’s
primary backup. ”It’s honestly something I’m not focusing on,”
said Quinn, who’s instead looking to make an impression with much
more playing time in the preseason finale at Minnesota on Thursday