LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) – Rookie Kyle Orton was in the weight room when he was summoned to coach Lovie Smith’s office and given the news he expected to hear: He’s the Chicago Bears’ starting quarterback.

“I was happy. I wasn’t surprised, kind of thought it was going to happen,” Orton said Sunday when the Bears made yet another change.

“I obviously know the recent history, so I know the city and all the fans want a talented quarterback who’s going to go out there and play well and win a lot of football games and hopefully I’m that guy,” Orton added, showing his confidence.

“I think I will be.”

While Orton was promoted due to a strong performance in Friday’s 16-12 exhibition win over Buffalo, struggling Chad Hutchinson was demoted all the way down the depth chart.

“As of now he’s not in the rotation. We want to take a look at the other guys ,” Smith said, announcing that recently signed veteran Jeff Blake is now Orton’s backup and Kurt Kittner is No. 3.

“We’ve seen him (Hutchinson) all through training camp so we really want to get a look at the other guys,” Smith added.

Orton led an 81-yard scoring drive by completing 7-of-9 passes against Buffalo’s second-team defense, while Hutchinson was 3-for-14 passing with two interceptions and three sacks in a half of play against the Bills’ first team. It was Hutchinson’s second straight shaky outing since replacing the injured Rex Grossman, who broke his ankle Aug. 12 against the Rams.

The Bears end their preseason schedule Thursday at home against Cleveland and open the regular season Sept. 11 at Washington.

Orton, who played at Purdue, was a fourth-round draft pick. He slipped in the draft after he was slowed by a hip injury in his senior season.

Now he’s a starter on a huge stage. In the preseason, he’s completed 27 of 42 passes for 409 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, mostly against backups.

“It’s been a crazy couple months since the draft and all the way from sliding in the draft and now starting opening week,” Orton said. “It’s been lot of ups and downs. …”

Orton said he learned watching former Purdue teammate Drew Brees, now with the Chargers. He’s also aware of the success another rookie quarterback, the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, has experienced. But he also added he’s his own quarterback.

“I’m not going to try to go out there and be an MVP quarterback. I’m going to try to go out there and make plays when they’re there and hang on to the football and put our team in position to win,” he said.

“I’m not scared at all about being a rookie quarterback. I think I’m right where I need to be.”

Hutchinson, a former major league baseball pitcher with the Cardinals, started five games for the Bears last season after Grossman’s season ended in Game 3 with a torn knee ligament. He moved ahead of backups Jonathan Quinn and Craig Krenzel after they had their chances to start.

Hutchinson ran off the practice field Sunday and did not comment.

“He told me to be comfortable with it. I think he’s happy for me,” Orton said of Hutchinson.

Orton would be the fifth starting quarterback used by Smith, who is in his second season. Chicago was 5-11 a year ago.

“You change any position on the field that much, it will disrupt and then you talk about the most important position on the field,” center Olin Kreutz said. “We’ve chosen our guys and tried to stick with them and there have been freak injuries and stuff like that. Hopefully Kyle is our guy.”

New receiver Muhsin Muhammmad, who’d figured to be Grossman’s favorite target and then perhaps Hutchinson’s, will now have to catch balls from a rookie.

“We’re going to have to make some tough catches. We’re going to have to do some things out of the ordinary,” Muhammad said.

“But I think he’s a kid who can get it done. He’s got a lot of savvy, got a lot of of poise – almost borderline cocky. But in order to play this game, you got to have a little bit of that. I think he has enough of it, but is still a humble kid.”

AP-ES-08-28-05 1905EDT


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