Not since his days at Purdue has Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton entered training camp as the definitive starter.
With the promotion comes more snaps, responsibility and a heap of pressure as Orton now resides in the long shadow cast by Hall of Famer John Elway.
The legacy of No. 7 has been difficult to live up to. The Broncos have won just one playoff game since Elway retired with two Super Bowl titles a decade ago.
Not that it's a bad thing. Chris Simms, Orton's backup, welcomes the comparisons.
"He's set quite a legacy here for the quarterbacks," said Simms, whose father, Phil Simms, was a Super Bowl MVP for the New York Giants when they beat the Broncos in 1987. "Maybe I'm different than others because of my dad -- I grew up with people comparing me to a quarterback all the time. I think it's a pretty awesome thing to have."
For Orton, this is a far cry from his days with the Chicago Bears, who haven't had a franchise quarterback in ages and who traded Orton and three draft picks to Denver for Jay Cutler this spring.
Orton is already experiencing the magnitude of being the main quarterback in the Mile High City. Fans recognize him on the streets even though he's been in town for just a short while.
"It's fun," Orton said of the attention.
There's a long list of quarterbacks who have passed through town that haven't been able to measure up to Elway in wins, charisma or moxie.
Cutler -- who boasts an Elway-like rocket for an arm -- was on his way, but had a falling out with new coach Josh McDaniels that led to his trade to Chicago.
In minicamp, Orton won the job over Simms.
The competition, though, is far from finished. It's Orton's job now, but Simms can make up ground.
"We're going to evaluate the quarterbacks just like we do every other position," McDaniels said. "If Chris is the most effective quarterback in our system by September, then he'll start ... It's going to make Kyle a better football player, it's going to make Chris a better football player and hopefully it's going to make our team a better football team."
Orton doesn't have the arm of Cutler, nor the petulant personality. That just might serve to lighten the stress load in the locker room, especially coming off a season in which the Broncos squandered a three-game lead with three to go and missed the playoffs for a third straight season.
The Broncos insist the Cutler chapter is officially closed, and that they've moved on. But the ordeal will surface again when Cutler comes to town for a preseason game on Aug. 30.
Orton is already becoming quite comfortable with McDaniels' complicated system that doesn't require a cannon arm as much as precision reads at the line of scrimmage and pinpoint passing.
"I know all the plays," said Orton, who threw for 2,972 yards last season. "I can get up on the board and talk you through every play and do all that stuff. But have I repped everything 20, 30, 40 times? No, and that's what it takes. When you're playing, it's got to be second nature. Really, that's my goal: try to get as much stuff as possible to become second nature."
While in Chicago, Orton posted a 21-12 record as a starter. He also was sacked 59 times, including 27 last season.
Now he'll enjoy the benefits of a stout offensive line that surrendered only 12 sacks last season.
Orton has a cast of receivers that includes Brandon Stokley, Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney and, of course, Brandon Marshall, a Pro Bowler last season after his second straight 100-catch season.
That is if Marshall sticks around.
Marshall has made it clear through his body language and clipped responses that he is unhappy in Denver. He skipped all the offseason workouts while rehabbing from a hip operation and for what he perceived was a misdiagnosis of his injury by the team's medical staff. He's also discontent with his contract.
Still, he's in camp -- although he sat out Tuesday for health reasons -- and that's great with Orton.
"He really catches the ball well," Orton said. "I'm excited to work with him."
Does he think Marshall will be here to start the season?
"Everybody hopes he's here and can do some great things," Orton said. "I'm excited to play in this offense. It's a great system for the quarterback."
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