With Rex Grossman hurt and Brian Griese continually ineffective, Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith will turn to No. 3 quarterback Kyle Orton, who has not played at all this season, to start against the Minnesota Vikings next Monday night.
Orton, 25, started 15 games for the Bears as a rookie in 2005, after Grossman was injured but has not thrown a pass in the nearly two full seasons since. He did pilot Chicago to an eight-game winning streak in 2005 and led the Bears to a division title.
"I'm a better player now than I was as a rookie," Orton told Chicago-area reporters on Monday afternoon. "If I play well and win football games, it will be my job. This is the most excited I've been, and I look forward to the game. I'm just a better player [now]."
In a season of instability at the position, the Bears will become the sixth franchise to use three different starting quarterbacks this season. Orton will become the NFL's 57th different starter for 2007.
Grossman opened the season as the starter, lost his job to Griese and then regained it. But the former first-round choice suffered a knee injury in last Thursday's loss at Washington and, while he will not need surgery, the injury will sideline him for the balance of the season.
In all, Grossman logged seven starts and Griese six this season. It is believed that, barring injury, Orton will be the starter for the final three games of the campaign.
"He's a smart football player with a strong arm," Smith said in making the announcement that Orton will start. "Our guys have played with him, so they know It's just time to see what Kyle can do."
In his 15 appearances in 2005, Orton completed 190 of 368 passes for 1,869 yards, with nine touchdown passes and 13 interceptions, for a passer rating of 59.7. With Orton in the lineup that year, the Bears relied heavily on their running game and a rugged defense.
A former Purdue standout, Orton was a fourth-round choice in the 2005 draft.
``I think everybody knows that I've been frustrated and haven't
liked my role, but it's what it was and I tried to make the best of
it and now my job's just to focus on the future and try to play
well and let everything work itself out,'' Orton said.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.