Chicago Bears: Kyle Orton

Uncertainty clouds the backup quarterback position at Chicago Bears training camp with Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen competing for the No. 2 job. So it’s no surprise general manager Phil Emery expressed an interest Saturday in potentially bringing back Kyle Orton.

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
Daniel Plassmann/USA TODAY SportsIf Kyle Orton is interested, the Bears are open to the idea of bringing back the veteran quarterback, who played for Chicago from 2005-08.
“I have great respect for Kyle,” Emery told Jeff Dickerson on ESPN Radio. “When I was in Kansas City, we brought him in. That’s the famous claim the Bears figured they would get [in 2011]. We claimed him. He came in. He started against the Bears; got hurt first or second play. At the time in Kansas City, we won the game. The next week, he starts against Green Bay, an undefeated Green Bay team [which] had the longest winning streak in football at that point. [He] beat them; beat them in Kansas City. Great leadership skills, guys really like playing for him, big arm. So the skill set is there. But as far as where he’s going in his career… that we don’t know.”

Orton was preparing to play his ninth season in the NFL when the Dallas Cowboys released him just before the start of training camp. The release came after Orton skipped Dallas’ offseason program while contemplating retirement.

Orton reportedly spent a few days in Dallas meeting with club officials, but the Cowboys ultimately decided to release him. During those meetings, Orton told team officials he would show up to training camp. But throughout the offseason, Orton reportedly had cut off all communication with Cowboys officials.

Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones said just before the quarterback’s release that Orton intended to play in 2014, but many around the league believe Orton will retire.

“[There’s] a lot of rumors in terms of him retiring,” Emery said. “I certainly know that if he had an interest in playing, that would be out in the league. We’re extremely excited about Jay [Cutler], and we’re extremely excited about the competition we have for the backups. If we see a player at quarterback or any other position that can help us, we’ll certainly take a look.”

Since losing Orton in the 2009 trade that brought Cutler to Chicago, the Bears have tried twice to bring him back. When Cutler suffered a broken thumb in 2011, the Bears put in a waiver claim for Orton, who was awarded to the Chiefs. At the time, Emery was Kansas City’s director of college scouting.

Emery tried to sign Orton during free agency in 2012, but the quarterback opted to play for the Cowboys.

“There’s an interest on our end on looking at any player that can help this team, and we continue to do that,” Emery said. “We want to keep looking at players that can really have a legitimate chance to make our team. If there’s a quarterback, a wideout, a defensive person -- a DB that could help us -- we're certainly gonna look at him.”

Orton certainly falls into that category, provided he still wants to play.

Urlacher: Cutler never called after I retired

September, 12, 2013
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Retired middle linebacker Brian Urlacher revealed in a Yahoo! Sports interview that Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was the only ex-teammate who failed to reach out to Urlacher after he retired on May 22, even though the Bears legend described himself as one of Cutler’s most vocal supporters in the last several years.

"Well, I did not hear from Jay, out of all the guys I played with, but that’s just – maybe we weren’t as close as, like you said, as we could have been," Urlacher said. "That’s just the way to let you know where you stand with people. But it’s not his job to text me, maybe that’s not his thing. That’s fine. That’s the way it is. I felt like I stood up for him more than anyone else did over the last three or four years in the media. I feel bad for the guy, he takes a lot of grief from the media too."

Cutler responded to Urlacher’s comments on Thursday during his weekly press conference at Halas Hall.

"No, I haven’t spoken to Brian," Cutler said. "I did not call him. I guess I’ll reach out to him."

[+] EnlargeBrian Urlacher and Jay Cutler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images"Maybe we weren't as close ... as we could have been," retired Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher (left) said of his relationship with Jay Cutler.
Denver traded Cutler to the Bears in April 2009 in exchange for a pair of first-round draft choices, a third-round pick and quarterback Kyle Orton.

Urlacher admitted that he initially had reservations about the club trading for Cutler because Orton had led the Bears to nine wins the previous season, throwing just 12 interceptions in 465 pass attempts.

"It was a tough situation with him coming in because we gave up two first-round picks to get him," Urlacher said. "We got rid of our quarterback at the time, Kyle Orton, who I didn’t think needed to be traded in the first place. I thought he was our guy. We won games with him. He did the things as a defensive player you needed: He didn’t turn the football over. He gave us a chance to play defense. So I was mad when they traded him in the first place. I didn’t understand it.

"I was also excited. We got a quarterback that could possibly take us to the Super Bowl. Jay Cutler is a first-round pick, had a great arm, etcetera. It’s just – he’s offense, I’m defense. We didn’t get a chance to interact as much as we should have, maybe."

Urlacher denied a report that he and Cutler had to be separated during an argument in 2009, the quarterback's first year in Chicago.

"No. I heard that too," Urlacher said. "That was early. That never happened. I never had an altercation with my teammates in the locker room. In practice, we fight all the time. Jay and I never fought in practice. We talked a lot just to keep practice interesting. We never had to be separated in the locker room. I don’t know where that came from or who made that up. But there was never anything even close to that."

Urlacher also squashed a rumor that Cutler had played a role in the Bears’ decision to break off contract talks with Urlacher in the early stages of free agency. Urlacher stated that if the Bears had made him an initial offer, instead of requiring his agent to submit a contract proposal in the exclusive negotiating window in the days leading up to the start of free agency, that he would still be on the field playing for the Bears in 2013.

"In the end, that's the Bears' decision," Urlacher said. "Phil Emery is the one who makes that decision. Phil Emery makes all personnel decisions, according to him. That’s what he says. It was his decision not to bring me back. Not Jay’s or anyone else’s. In the end, Phil had the final say on it."

Free agency primer: WR tops Need Meter

March, 12, 2012
Devin McCourtyMark L. Baer/US PresswireVincent Jackson is the big free agent prize among wide receivers. Will the Bears be big players?
Where they stand: The Chicago Bears lead the NFC North in available cap room, sitting on approximately $30 million. But it’s important to note that cap room shouldn’t be viewed as a blank check; especially when considering the Bears would likely be looking to extend several of their core players with contracts ending in the next couple of years. While upgrades on offense seem most logical of potential Bears moves during free agency, given the need to surround quarterback Jay Cutler with more weapons, it’s believed that coach Lovie Smith wants to revamp a defense led by four Pro Bowl players -- linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, cornerback Charles Tillman and defensive end Julius Peppers -- older than 30.


[+] EnlargeMarques Colston
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezMarques Colston is among the second tier of free agent receivers who could be options for the Bears.
Receiver: 10. To be fair, the position didn’t appear as much of an area of need when the team ripped off a 7-3 start. Obviously, Cutler played a significant role in that. Over the first 10 games, Chicago’s receiving corps averaged 11 catches per outing. Once Cutler and running back Matt Forte suffered injuries that took them out of the lineup, the receivers’ production dipped to eight catches per game.

A dominant slot receiver, Earl Bennett became the club’s go-to option in the passing game with Cutler out of commission. Teams quickly recognized, and adjusted coverage accordingly, leading to Bennett catching one pass or fewer in five of his last six games. Johnny Knox’s horrific back injury against the Seattle Seahawks further exposed this team’s deficiencies at receiver.

So with a major need clearly defined at the position, the question now is how the team proceeds in free agency and the draft.

It’s believed the Bears plan on making a run at San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson in free agency, and sources have confirmed as much. But if Jackson commands what several agents expect to be a salary in the $12 million-per-season range, it’s unlikely new general manager Phil Emery would continue the team’s pursuit, based on his stated preference of building through the draft, which signifies he’s not a proponent of spending lavishly in free agency.

So surely the team has a few secondary and less-expensive options in mind, such as New Orleans Saints receivers Marques Colston and Robert Meachem, or Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon of the Indianapolis Colts. Given their youth and physical attributes, Meachem (just 11 dropped balls over four seasons) and Garcon would appear to be the best fits. Colston averaged just 3.2 yards after catch in 2011, according to Pro Football Focus. That doesn’t necessarily jibe with the explosive passing game the Bears envision in 2012. Wayne, meanwhile, is coming off his first season since 2003 in which he didn’t gain 1,000 yards receiving.

According to a source, just Wednesday, seven teams (the Bears weren't one of them) expressed interest in Meachem; a list sure to grow as free agency approaches.

(Read full post)

Final Word: NFC North

December, 2, 2011
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge on Week 13:

Closing in: The Green Bay Packers have a great chance to clinch a playoff spot Sunday, regardless of what happens in their game at the New York Giants. (It can happen with a Packers victory, or a loss by one of the following teams: the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions or the Atlanta Falcons.) The Packers can also clinch the NFC North with a victory combined with a Lions loss to the New Orleans Saints. Even if they lose to the Giants, losses by the Lions and Bears this weekend would hand the division to the Packers. And then the real fun begins. The Packers' next goal would be to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and, possibly, a 16-0 regular season.

History: The Giants have lost three consecutive games and aren't expected to have defensive end Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee) for this game. The Packers, meanwhile, have won 17 consecutive games, including the playoffs. But optimism in New York for an upset has centered, in part, on the Giants' history in such situations. On three occasions, the Giants have snapped an opponent's winning streak of 18 or more games. They beat the New England Patriots in 2004, the Denver Broncos in 1998 and the Chicago Bears in 1934. With that said, nothing has happened lately to suggest that these Giants are in position to make it a fourth time -- other than the fact that previous incarnations of their teams have pulled it off.

Must win: Let's be blunt: If the Bears want to participate in the 2011 postseason, they'll need to beat the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field. The Chiefs have lost four consecutive games and are expected to start quarterback Tyler Palko, who has thrown six interceptions in the Chiefs' past two games. The other alternative is former Bears quarterback Kyle Orton, who has spent a week with the team. The Bears are 5-1 and are averaging 31.3 points per game at home this season, their only loss coming in Week 3 to the Packers. There is a general assumption that quarterback Caleb Hanie will settle down for his second NFL start, but the Chiefs' poor perimeter run defense could help tailback Matt Forte gobble up yards outside the tackles. (The Chiefs are allowing 5.7 yards per rush outside the tackles.) No matter how it happens, the Bears can't afford a loss Sunday.

Tough to win: As we noted earlier Friday, the Lions will have their work cut out for them Sunday night in stopping the New Orleans Saints' offense, which is particularly explosive at the Superdome. To be fair, it's worth noting that the Lions have a decent opportunity to score against the Saints' risk-taking defense. The Saints are giving up the sixth-most passing yards per game in the NFL this season (253.7) and have only six interceptions, tied for the second-lowest in the league. The fractured right index finger of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has healed, and the Lions at least have the capacity to exchange blows in a shootout.

Defending Tebow: The Minnesota Vikings' beleaguered secondary will get something of a break this week against Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. The Vikings will be without four of the top five defensive backs they opened the season with, and on Sunday rookie Mistral Raymond will make his first NFL start. But the Broncos rarely throw downfield with Tebow and instead focus on their option running game. The Vikings will need to pay particular attention when Tebow is in the spread formation; the Broncos are averaging 6.5 yards per rush and have five rushing touchdowns when Tebow is in the shotgun.

Chiefs to give Orton shot at starting role

November, 28, 2011
Embattled coach Kansas City Chief coach Todd Haley said Monday that Tyler Palko remains the starting quarterback, but he acknowledged that former Bear Kyle Orton will be given every opportunity to win the job before Sunday's game at Chicago.

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Tillman: Would be hard for Orton to start

November, 28, 2011
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said Monday if the Kansas City Chiefs start recently acquired quarterback Kyle Orton on Sunday at Soldier Field, it likely will be a condensed game plan and a challenge for Orton.

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Source: Broncos waive Orton

November, 22, 2011
The Denver Broncos waived quarterback Kyle Orton on Tuesday, an NFL source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

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Sources: Bears to put in claim on Orton

November, 22, 2011
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Denver Broncos announced the release of quarterback Kyle Orton on Tuesday, and sources familiar with the situation said the Chicago Bears plan to put in a waiver claim to facilitate a potential reunion, adding the team is also interested in former Arizona Cardinal's third-round pick Josh McCown.

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