Bears show commitment to Orton during mini-camp

Matt Trowbridge

Last year wasn’t good enough. Except, it seems, at quarterback.

Quarterback Kyle Orton said the early opening of the Bears’ three-day mini-camp Tuesday sent the message that: “It’s not good enough last year.”

General manager Jerry Angelo sent the same message three months ago. Two days after the Bears lost their season finale to finish 9-7 and narrowly miss the playoffs, Angelo called Orton “a work in progress” and said: “We’ve got to get the quarterback position stabilized. We are fixated on it.”

Angelo back-tracked last month at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, saying he didn’t want another quarterback competition in training camp. And Tuesday, coach Lovie Smith said the Bears had no interest in Denver’s 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler, who demanded a trade Sunday.

“Everybody is totally behind Kyle. As far as bringing in other guys, we brought in another quarterback,” Smith said.

That would be third-stringer Brett Basanez. With Chicago signing only former backups at quarterback, safety and offensive line so far in free agency, off-season Bears talk has been dominated by speculation about Orton.

“Kyle is not looking or listening to much of that,” Smith said. “That’s just part of the life of a quarterback. It doesn’t faze him much.”

Orton said he hasn’t heard the Cutler speculation and never talked to Angelo after the GM said he was “fixated” on stabilizing the quarterback position. “I leave all that stuff to my agent. That’s what I pay him for,” Orton said.

Orton said Angelo’s quarterback comments didn’t surprise him.

“It’s the most important position,” Orton said. “You’ve got to get it right, and he’s got to know it’s right.

“I’m going to do everything I can and be the guy who stabilizes it. I don’t think that’s saying that I am not going to be that guy. I am going to be that guy. This is my offense, and I’m working as hard as I can to show everybody this is my job.”

Orton and Smith said he did just that before spraining his ankle. Orton had a 90.1 passer rating in eight starts before getting hurt on a scramble against Detroit. After he returned, he had a 66.5 rating in seven games.

“I’m happy with what I did, trying to come out and play hurt and lead my football team,” Orton said. “(But) I wasn’t healthy. The ankle wasn’t nearly where it should have been. I was hobbling around. My entire leg wasn’t healthy.”

Orton averaged 274 yards in his last five full games before the injury and 159 yards after he returned.

“We got good play from our quarterback position before Kyle injured his ankle,” Smith said, “so I’m excited about a healthy Kyle playing an entire year this year.”

“I let my record speak for itself,” Orton, 26, said, pointing to his 19-11 as a starter. “That’s my job description, to win football games.

“I’m really proud with what I’ve done early in my career. I feel I’m going to be a good quarterback in this league for a long time. I don’t think I have much to worry about.”

Lovie Smith agreed.

“Kyle Orton,” Smith insisted, “is our quarterback.”

Rockford Register Star assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or