There are things Kyle Orton has done in Colorado that he really couldn't have done in Chicago.
He has climbed mountains, he has been camping and fishing, and he has watched his golf balls rocket out into the mile-high air.
Now, he expects to do some things on the football field for the Broncos that he never could have with the Bears. With this coaching staff, with this offense and with this team, Orton could achieve more.
Certainly, more is being asked of him. He expects to be throwing more than 40 times in some games, which he did once in his 33 starts for the Bears.
The Broncos offense is considerably more ambitious and complicated than the scheme in which Orton played with the Bears.
Broncos center Casey Wiegmann, a veteran of 14 NFL seasons, says this by far is the most complex offense he has played in. But Orton has grasped it quickly.
"He has picked up the offense really well," Wiegmann said. "He very rarely makes a mistake." Orton acknowledges it was a struggle to learn it, a direct derivative of the New England Patriots' offense, after being in the same Chicago offense for four years. But he said he now feels very comfortable after nearly five months.
And he believes the offense will bring out his best.
"In Chicago we did what we did and just tried to do everything better than the other team," he said. "Here we change more week to week. One week we are a passing team, the next we are a running team. We try to change things up." Broncos Coach Josh McDaniels identified Orton's ability to operate a complex offense when he was considering trading Jay Cutler. So the Bears have Orton's brains to thank for Cutler.
"You could tell on film he was smart," McDaniels said. "He had a lot of responsibility mentally in the Chicago offense. He was doing a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. There aren't too many players I would feel like we could just plug them in and they would pick things up like this. It's not a normal deal." McDaniels saw more in Orton than a sound mind.
"You also look at the skill set and say, what would that look like in our offense?" he said. "Our offense is totally different than most offenses in this league, certainly different than the one they use in Chicago. I feel like that guy in this system is going to be a different player and a good player." Much has been made of Orton's arm strength, or the lack of it. To believe some, he couldn't throw a pebble through a wet tissue.
While Orton's arm is nowhere near as strong as Cutler's, it is strong enough for what he will be asked to do, McDaniels says.
"If he can make the throws accurately we want him to make in our offense, then to me he has a good arm," he said. "I don't worry about if he can throw the 28-yard in cut. There aren't too many people who can do things like that. John Elway was a different breed." McDaniels is running the Denver offense, and he's also the de facto quarterbacks coach. Orton gets a lot of one-on-one time with the man who helped develop Tom Brady and Matt Cassel in New England.
"He is very knowledgeable," Orton said. "I thought I was a smart player when I came here, but I have progressed as much mentally as I have physically." One of the reasons Orton has evolved is that he dived into the Broncos pool and rarely came up for a breath of air. After the Bears traded him on a Thursday afternoon, he flew to Denver on Friday morning.
He said he harbors no ill will toward the Bears, and that he is just happy to be with an organization that wants him. If he has any extra motivation, it is not to prove the Bears wrong but to persuade the Broncos to extend his contract, which expires after this season.
"My first four years in Chicago were great," he said. "I made a lot of friends, won a lot of games, went to a Super Bowl, played as a rookie. So I look back and smile about it. But I look at this opportunity as one that can propel me in the second half of my career." Orton is looking forward to seeing old friends today when the Bears come to town. His former teammates will find he is re-growing his trademark "neck beard."
"I'm not sure if I'll keep it," he said. "It's a matter of whether the wife lets me have it or not." Orton has learned he can't always control everything -- and that is not necessarily a bad thing.