ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos might have solved one of their many mysteries Tuesday after watching Kyle Orton take snaps, hand off cleanly and complete passes at practice for the first time since slicing open his right index finger nine days earlier.
"It was obvious today that he could do it all," offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said.
Orton wore a glove on his throwing hand and thin gauze and tape on his injured finger to protect the dislocated knuckle that poked through the skin in the Broncos' third preseason game.
"Obviously, there's a little bit of restriction for a quarterback when you've got something on your hand. But for the most part everything was clean," coach Josh McDaniels said. "Hopefully everybody that was out there today will be ready to go on Sunday."
McDaniels said the determining factor on Orton's status will be "a combination of the healing process and then how effective he can be. If he's able to be the most effective guy we've got then certainly he'll play."
If Orton has a setback, Chris Simms, who returned Sunday from a high ankle sprain, would get the nod.
During the 20 minutes the media were allowed to watch the workout, Orton threw accurate short passes in warm-up drills and also handed off with his right hand without any apparent problems.
The media was escorted out of the practice facility before the Broncos began the team portion of their workout and weren't allowed access to players once practice was over.
Orton declined to comment before practice. He's scheduled to speak with the media on Wednesday, another sign the Broncos expect him to start.
Simms said the smart money certainly was on Orton.
"Yeah, I expect Kyle to be ready," he said. "He's a competitor, he's a tough guy."
Still, Orton's injury could force some changes in the play-calling in McDaniels' head coaching debut.
"Yeah, a finger's tough," Simms said. "I know I've dislocated my finger a few times and it's your moneymaker, you need your hands to throw that ball. So, if you're not feeling right there, it takes a little getting used to but I think he'll be OK."
The other big question surrounding the Broncos is whether Brandon Marshall will continue to be a headache or resume his role as the team's top receiver.
Marshall was reinstated Sunday after being suspended Aug. 28 for detrimental conduct stemming from insubordinate actions during practice, and McDaniels has said he'll entertain an escalating scale of discipline for Marshall if his misbehavior continues.
However, McDaniels said Marshall has had a great attitude and work ethic since returning to the team.
Marshall, who has clashed with the organization since the team rebuffed his overtures for a new contract and did not act on his request for a trade, participated in just a handful of offseason practices. Despite that, McDaniels suggested Marshall could make a significant contribution against the Bengals.
"Look, he's a good football player and if he's ready to go and we go through this week of practice and we feel like that's the direction that we should play on Sunday, then certainly we all know what he can do as a football player," McDaniels said. "It's a matter of getting acclimated to enough of the game plan and him understanding what's going on, but we'll see as we go through the week."
McDaniels said he's had multiple meetings with Marshall since his suspension was lifted "and we're looking forward to moving past this. He's out there practicing hard and that's what we're looking for."
Asked to describe their relationship now, McDaniels said: "We have a good relationship. He comes here, he goes to work. I coach him, I try to teach him as much as I can. He's working hard on the field."
Marshall declined to comment as he darted in and out of the locker room during the media access period.
His teammates said they welcomed back their muscular Pro Bowl playmaker and are willing to let his selfish actions last month slide if he can stay focused on team goals and not his own agenda.
"There's not too many receivers that looks like he does in the league," Simms said. "He can bring confidence to an offense in a hurry. He's a special athlete."
Receiver Brandon Stokley said Marshall's drama-filled offseason that culminated in his suspension didn't affect the team's chemistry.
"He made one mistake and now we're all ready to just move on from that," Stokley said. "And we all look forward to a great season from him."