Tyler Palko will start at quarterback against Steelers

Posted Nov 24, 2011

The Chiefs are hopeful that Kyle Orton be available in a reserve role

The horde of cameras that showed up at the Chiefs Thanksgiving Day practice hoping for a glimpse of newly-acquired quarterback Kyle Orton came up empty handed. Family matters have kept Orton from reporting to Chiefs headquarters, but he is expected to arrive in Kansas City on Friday.

Chiefs head coach Todd Haley spoke with Orton by phone Wednesday night.

“In our conversation, I was very clear and Kyle was very happy to get here,” Haley said. “Sometimes when you don’t choose where you get to go that can be an issue, but again, in our conversation, he sounded genuinely excited about the new opportunity to be here and to kind of get to know his teammates and to be part of this.”

Orton will not be handed a starting role immediately. That job currently belongs to Tyler Palko, who made his first career start Monday night in New England.

The Chiefs hope that a two-day cram session will ready Orton for a backup role on Sunday night, but Palko will remain Kansas City’s starting quarterback against Pittsburgh.

“He’s worked hard and he understands the offense,” Haley said of Palko. “There was a lot to be encouraged about and I’m excited to see progression here Sunday night. That’s really the number one focus.”

Even so, Haley wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Orton playing against the Steelers. There are enough similarities between the Chiefs offensive system and the one Orton operated under throughout much of his tenure in Denver to expedite the learning curve.

“We’re ahead of the game trying to get him at least up to speed offensively with terminology, all those things,” Haley said. “I wouldn’t think that he’d be terribly in a bad position to have a chance to be out there, but it would be in a depth situation, any scenario that I see.”

Orton started 27 games for former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, who brought philosophies with him from New England that can be traced back to Jets teams of the late 1990s. Haley implemented basics of that system with the Chiefs in 2009 with many of the fundamentals carried forward by coordinators Charlie Weis and Bill Muir the past two seasons.

“I think overall that there will be a common denominator of knowledge in the way that we call formations and plays, but this system has evolved and it’s the evolution that he’ll have to have a crash course on,” explained Muir.

“Let’s just say this as an analogy: You’ve been reading a textbook in Spanish and now it’s in Portuguese. They’re both languages that have a common denominator, but there are some differences. The thing to get him up to speed will be to get him involved in the idiosyncrasies of what our system involves.”

The biggest obstacle Orton faces is that all communication has come over the phone since he was claimed off waivers from Denver late Wednesday afternoon.

“At this particular time we need some meeting room time with him,” Muir said. “As soon as he arrives, we’ll be meeting with him.”

If Orton isn’t able to get up to speed in time for Sunday’s game, rookie Ricky Stanzi would serve as the team’s primary backup. The Chiefs have yet to activate more than two quarterbacks on the 46-man gameday roster this season.

“He’s a smart guy,” Haley said of Orton. “I just was very clear to him about where he was coming and what he was coming into and that Tyler was the starter, but the guy who gives us the best chance to win will always play at any position. Tyler understands that and every other position understands that, so that’s what we try to do on a full-time basis here and what I believe that if you continue to do, create competition that at the same time gives you depth, that that’s how you get better as a team.”

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