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As Broncos cast fortunes with Tebow, Orton adjusts to new role

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It's Tim Tebow time for the remainder of the season, whether Kyle Orton likes the situation or not.

Orton said he was informed by the Denver Broncos that the rookie will start not only Sunday against the Houston Texans, but in the season finale the following week when the San Diego Chargers visit Invesco Field.

Even with his bruised ribs almost healed, Orton, who was in the midst of his most prolific passing season, will watch Tebow just like everyone else.

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Orton wasn't happy about the decision that leaves his future with the organization quite hazy, especially with a new front office likely coming in after a dismal season that cost Josh McDaniels his job.

"I said I'd like to finish the season. That wasn't the option that was presented," said Orton, who signed an extension through 2011 last summer. "I don't know if I'll be here next year. We'll just have to wait and see what shakes out with the organization."

For now, the Broncos (3-11) are casting their fortunes with Tebow.

The first-round draft pick out of Florida was solid in his first start last Sunday in Oakland, even if the playbook was scaled back for him. Tebow passed for a pedestrian 138 yards, most of his throws of the nice and safe variety to the outside.

But Tebow did make plays happen with his legs, including a 40-yard touchdown scamper on a missed assignment that was intended to be a draw to Correll Buckhalter. Tebow finished with 78 rushing yards, the second-highest single game total ever by a Broncos quarterback.

Tebow's performance did come with some friendly advice from interim coach Eric Studesville -- slide more.

At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, Tebow might be built more like a fullback, but all those hits from linebackers and defensive linemen tend to take a toll.

"You can talk to him about things like that, but those instincts are just in him," Studesville said. "Hopefully we can keep him healthy as long as possible doing those things because we know the violence of this game. But he plays this game how it's supposed to be played, and some of that is him getting bounced around out there."

Tebow insists that's simply the way he's wired, has been since his college days with the Gators.

"I try to be smart in every situation. But sometimes my competitive nature can get the better part of me," said Tebow, who hurt his ribs during a preseason game at Cincinnati when he barreled into the end zone through defenders. "I'll try to be even smarter to make good decisions with my body."

As of now, Tebow might just be the Broncos' best rushing option.

Knowshon Moreno has sore ribs, missing practice Wednesday, and Lance Ball gained just 20 yards on 15 carries against the Raiders. Buckhalter chipped in 3 yards on six carries.

"It's just a lack of execution. Plain and simple, we should be doing pretty good," Buckhalter said. "We had a letdown against the Raiders. There are no excuses. We just didn't execute."

The presence of Tebow provided an offensive spark, the team rallying around their enthusiastic quarterback in the huddle.

It was certainly visible to Texans coach Gary Kubiak.

"You saw the energy of the football team pick up," Kubiak said. "I've been very impressed."

To prepare for Tebow, Kubiak and his staff have been calling up footage from the preseason. Not that Tebow even remotely resembles that person.

Sure, Tebow is still quick to take off when a play breaks down. But his reads have progressed, and his feet aren't quite as antsy.

"How (Tebow) played last week tells you that he was taking care of his business every week. He was staying ready to play, getting himself ready for his opportunity," Kubiak said. "What you're facing is another back back there, that's very capable of beating you with his legs as well as his arm."

Tebow also is trying to make a solid impression. After all, the next coach or general manager coming in -- or perhaps already in the building -- might be watching.

"In the NFL, everything you do is an interview and it is an audition," Tebow said. "You always have to put your best foot forward and try to go out there and perform every day in practice and in the game. I will try to do nothing less personally.

"As far as the rest of that goes, I'm not going to worry about it because I can't control it."

The situation is out of Orton's hands as well. He was far from pleased over the fact that, barring an injury, he might not see the field again this season.

Orton was well on his way to career-best numbers, throwing for 3,653 yards and 20 touchdowns this season.

He injured his ribs during the second half against the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 28. After that, he wasn't the same. He was ineffective at Kansas City and Arizona, then inactive against Oakland.

"You never want to give up your job, you know?" Orton said. "We've worked hard as a unit for a number of months, and you'd certainly like to be able to finish that out with your guys. It's disappointing not to be able to do that."

Notes: The Broncos placed FB Spencer Larsen (ankle) on injured reserve and promoted OL Stanley Daniels to the active roster from the practice squad. ... S Brian Dawkins (knee) was back at practice Wednesday, but participated on a limited basis. Same with WR Demaryius Thomas (ankle). ... K Matt Prater (groin) didn't practice.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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