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Orton, Simms excited to compete for Broncos' starting QB job

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The quarterback quandary in Denver is over. The competition, not so much.

Kyle Orton and Chris Simms have been told they have to earn the right to replace Jay Cutler, who was traded to Chicago last weekend, ending a six-week soap opera that began when the Pro Bowl passer decided he didn't want to play for new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels.

On Monday, Orton, acquired from the Bears, and Simms, a free-agent signing, met with the Denver media for the first time. They both said all the right things after a winter in which Cutler said all the wrong things -- or, in the case of not returning the Broncos' phone calls, nothing at all.

Orton and Simms said it was a thrill to work for the man who helped Tom Brady and Matt Cassel thrive in New England. They professed indifference to the fact McDaniels might draft a quarterback later this month. And they welcomed the competition for the starting job.

"That's the only thing I've ever asked for in my career," said Orton, a veteran of so many dueling quarterback dramas with Rex Grossman in Chicago. "If you get that, that's all you can really hope for. Chris is a good quarterback, smart player, he's won a lot of football games himself.

"So we'll have a good quarterback on the field."

Simms said the notion that he might also be vying for the starting job with a rookie who's not even on the roster yet doesn't bother him.

"To be a quarterback in this league, you've got to have thick skin and be able to let things roll off your shoulders," Simms said.

Cutler's inability or unwillingness to embrace that philosophy is precisely what led to his departure. Cutler became disenchanted in Denver when he learned the team had talked about trading him.

So the Broncos sent him to Chicago along with a fifth-round draft pick for Orton, two first-rounders and a third-rounder.

Therefore, all signs would seem to point toward Orton having the edge on Simms. He's 21-12 as a starter, including 15-2 at home, the best mark in the NFL since he joined the league in 2005.

Simms has started 16 games in six seasons, and he's thrown just two passes since undergoing emergency surgery to remove his spleen after a game in 2006.

He signed a two-year, $6 million deal originally to back up Cutler, but now finds himself in an open competition with Orton, who will make about $1 million this season in the final year of his contract.

"When I signed, I kind of knew what my role was going to be," Simms said. "But things change over the course of two or three weeks."

Neither quarterback, however, would say he felt the starting job was his to lose or keep.

"I'm another quarterback on the team and the best players are going to play," Orton said. "I think coach has made that clear for all positions, and quarterback is no different. So, really I'm just focusing on coming in, learning the system, getting to know the guys and playing the best football that I can."

He said he was eager to learn from McDaniels, the offensive guru who helped turn Cassel from a career backup into a top quarterback last season when Brady went down with a knee injury in the season opener.

"I can't tell you how excited I am to come to Denver, to play with great coaches, to play with a lot of talent around me on offense and hopefully really just embrace this community," Orton said.

Simms said the chance to work with McDaniels is what lured him to Denver.

"It's no secret that the offense in New England the last few years has been pretty explosive, done a lot of good things, won a lot of football games," Simms said. "And as a quarterback, and really as a fan of the game and as a student of the game, I found it very exciting to be a part of that, learn what he's been coaching the last few years."

Orton called it "a quarterback's dream" to play in an offense that features this group of wide receivers and to play behind a line that allowed just a dozen sacks last season.

"This is an offense that a quarterback can thrive in," Orton said. "And hopefully I can take the next step in my career and really become a top-level quarterback in this league."

Simms said he feels like he has a second chance in the NFL now that he's three years removed from his spleen's removal.

"I really don't think about it. I can't lose my spleen again," he cracked.

Quarterback Darrell Hackney was waived Monday after seeing time the last two seasons on Denver's practice squad and active roster.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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