Journeyman Palko gets his shot at the big time against Patriots

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tyler Palko walked into a crowded room and confronted frightening moment No. 1 in what could be a very scary week.

"This stuff I'm not so comfortable with," Kansas City's shaggy-haired quarterback told a swarm of cameras and reporters. "Be easy on me, guys."

For the most part, they were. Bill Belichick is not likely to be.

Four years after every NFL team passed him up in the draft and two years after he was cut by the California Redwoods of the United Football League, Palko will be a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Stepping in for the injured Matt Cassel, Palko will lead the struggling Chiefsagainst Belichick's New England Patriots -- on the road and on Monday night.

So how long will it take before he gets past the "wow" factor? "I would hope it doesn't last very long because if it does, we're going to be in trouble," he said.

Cassel hurt his throwing hand last weekend during a dismal 17-10 loss to Denver. Injuries have savaged Kansas City, particularly on offense where tight end Tony Moeaki and Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles have both been out almost all year.

But the underdog role seems to fit Palko. He was out of football altogether in 2008 and he was a last-string backup at New Orleans and Arizona before landing in Kansas City last December.

Palko has thrown 13 passes in his NFL career. But Chiefs fans looking for hope can point to the fact he passed for more career yards at Pittsburgh than Dan Marino. Plus, as a redshirt sophomore, he went into Notre Dame and became the first visiting quarterback to throw five touchdown passes against the Irish.

"Going into Notre Dame Stadium as a college kid is pretty special," he said. "Playing on 'Monday Night Football' -- I don't think you can get any more special than that. The NFL is the best league in the world. It's going to be a big spotlight, a big game. The New England Patriots are a good football team. But so are we."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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