Orton getting all the snaps with 1st-team offense

Reports of Kyle Orton’s departure have gotten nearly as much

mileage as the Toyota Prius the Broncos quarterback drives.

Looks like it’s time to hit the brakes.

Orton continues to practice exclusively with the first team at

Denver’s training camp, while backup Tim Tebow, the anticipated

challenger for the starting job, has yet to run a single play

behind the No. 1 offensive line. Team periods often consist of the

offense broken up into two groups.

The regulars go to one field, the reserves another. Orton and

third-string QB Brady Quinn lead the former group; Tebow the

latter.

That doesn’t even take into account that Orton has thrown the

ball confidently and accurately, and has looked the part of a

starting NFL signal-caller much more than either Tebow or

Quinn.

So, while Orton hasn’t been told he tops the depth chart,

nothing really needs to be said, except possibly an apology for

those Miami Dolphins trade talks.

”It’s out there. It’s not in the building,” Orton said

Thursday of the rumor mill surrounding his status. ”It’s business

as usual. Guys know how to handle this stuff, and that’s just the

way it is.”

The Denver’s three-tiered power structure in the front office –

GM Brian Xanders, executive VP of football operations John Elway

and new head coach John Fox – have stated since January that Orton

would top the depth chart until proven otherwise.

What’s caused the stir is Tebow’s off-the-charts popularity with

fans, who clearly embrace him as the No. 1 QB regardless of Orton’s

high level of play. The other factor were the Dolphins trade

discussions.

On Day 1 of camp, Orton drove away and there was uncertainty

whether he’d return for the team’s first official meeting a few

hours later. But the discussions with the Dolphins never

progressed, either because Denver’s was seeking too much or the

Dolphins were concerned about having to revamp Orton’s contract –

in the $9 million range for 2011 – into a longer term deal with

monetary guarantees.

The fallout from those talks continues at Miami’s training camp,

where Dolphins fans have chanted Orton’s name to demonstrate their

unhappiness with Chad Henne.

”My story’s been the same regardless of what you hear,” Fox

said earlier this week. ”And I’m in those meetings every day and

know what’s said to everybody. Nothing’s changed. We’ve been

singing the same song as seven months ago.”

That is, the competition will be ongoing and no starter named

until a clear winner emerges through preseason games.

All Orton has done is put the uncertainty aside and thrown the

ball with confidence and accuracy, while continuing to win over

veteran teammates who might not take lightly to a switch to Tebow

if the level of the two quarterbacks’ play continues down the same

path.

”I haven’t been told anything,” Orton said. ”That’s how I go

about it. And I just let my play speak for itself on the football

field. I feel like I’m playing good football right now. I’ve made

some strides in the offseason and I’m excited to get on the field

to lead this team to more wins this season.”

Tebow subbed for an injured Orton for the final three games last

season, providing a sample of his competitive swagger and unmatched

popularity. But lost in translation was that Orton, despite his

team’s struggle to win games, had been throwing the ball at a

career clip. He finished with a 58.8 percent completion percentage

in 13 games, throwing for 20 TDs and 3,653 yards to go with nine

interceptions before sitting out December.

”Some of the changes that are being made are going to help us

in the run game and protection wise,” Orton said. ”And, like I

said, I think we can throw the ball against anybody. We’ve got guys

that can get open and get the ball to them. I think if we can

improve in those areas, we’re going to be a tough offense to

stop.”

More difficult to curtail are the calls for Tebow, who draws the

most buzz at Dove Valley. He’s taking the second-team snaps ahead

of Quinn, but hasn’t matched Orton’s accuracy or pocket

presence.

Tebow and Orton aren’t close and don’t spend much time

chit-chatting. For Orton, it’s strictly business.

”When you step between the lines, that’s your job to lead the

football team and work hard and practice like you want everybody

else to,” he said. ”That’s the way I’ve gone about it.”