Kyle Orton can't wait for rookie quarterback Tim Tebow to sign his contract and help shoulder the load at the Denver Broncos' training camp.
Not necessarily to split the snaps or siphon the media attention. No, Orton has other things in mind for Tebow, a first-round draft pick who's generating the kind of buzz that John Elway did as a Broncos rookie in 1983.
"Oh, that would be fine," Orton said when asked after Wednesday's workout if he'd like to see Tebow in camp. "I've got these pads on. I need somebody to take them in for me."
Maybe it was good-natured rookie ribbing, or perhaps it was a reference to the brouhaha at Cowboys camp, where Dez Bryant insists he was unaware of the rookie ritual of carrying veterans' shoulder pads after practice and refused to accommodate Roy Williams' request. But it also showed quite clearly that Orton still considers himself the alpha dog at Dove Valley.
This offseason, Orton wanted a long-term contract extension like the one fellow restricted free agent Elvis Dumervil signed with the Broncos last week. Instead, Orton saw Brady Quinn come over in a trade and Tebow arrive via the draft after what many consider the greatest career in college football history at Florida.
Orton, who signed a $2.621 million tender this spring, enters camp as the Broncos' starter, but that could change. He split snaps with Quinn on Wednesday when the unsigned Tebow missed the first day of workouts for rookies, selected veterans and players coming off injuries.
Tebow, the 25th overall pick in the draft after winning two BCS national titles and the Heisman Trophy at Florida, said last month that he didn't want to miss a single practice. But he can't show up without his signature on a contract.
So, Tebow stayed away from camp while his agent, Jimmy Sexton, and Broncos general manager Brian Xanders continued exchanging numbers. A source told NFL Network's Scott Hanson that an agreement between the sides is "close," but that didn't prevent Tebow from missing Thursday morning's workout, too.
When the deal is finalized, Tebow is expected to receive about $12 million over five years.
Also missing Wednesday's workout was unsigned Demaryius Thomas, a Georgia Tech wide receiver selected 22nd overall. He and Tebow won't be considered holdouts unless they still aren't signed when the full squad reports for practice Sunday.
Quinn laughed when told of Orton's designs to put Tebow to work carrying his shoulder pads.
"I don't know if I'm going to be pulling any rookie pranks like that," Quinn said. "But it would be nice to get some coffee in the morning or something like that."
Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said he wasn't worried that Tebow's absence would turn into a protracted holdout but noted that the rookie already has fallen behind the others.
"We went through 60 pages this morning in an installation meeting. Those pages are filled with information," McDaniels said. "It's not that we're not going to go back and review that, we will."
It's just that Tebow will have to do some playbook cramming to do along with his regular workload.
Although the quarterbacks are sure to garner most of the attention at camp over the next six weeks, the more intriguing competition probably will come at the other end of all those passes.
Veteran wide receivers Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal figure to have more opportunities with two-time Pro Bowl pick Brandon Marshall in Miami now, but 12-year veteran Brandon Stokley could find himself in a tough fight with Brandon Lloyd, Kenny McKinley and Matt Willis for a roster spot.
The Broncos needed big, athletic wide receivers after trading Marshall to the Dolphins and they took two in the draft: Thomas is 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds. Eric Decker is 6-3 and 218 pounds.
Decker's collegiate career at Minnesota was cut short last fall because of a ligament sprain in his left foot, and his workout Wednesday was his first with the Broncos.
"He looked good out there," Quinn said. "He's a big kid. He looks big out of pads, but looks even bigger in pads."
Decker signed a four-year contract worth more than $2.5 million Tuesday, fulfilling his goal of getting into camp on time. He said both Thomas and Tebow were bummed they weren't able to do the same.
"It's tough for both because they're competitors and they want to be here with their teammates," Decker said. "They'll be out here soon."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.