NFL: Orton fitting in nicely in Denver

Published October 14, 2009 7:40 pm
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Broncos' quarterback Kyle Orton drives to work each day in an eco-friendly, energy-efficient hybrid. Orton is a Colorado kind of guy.

While many NFL players climb into Cadillac Escalades, refurbished muscle cars or other gas hogs, Orton is proud of the 44 miles per gallon he gets from his Honda Insight.

He went with the Honda hybrid after trading in his Toyota Prius, another car known for its fuel efficiency.

"I've been driving a hybrid for four years now and I love it," Orton said. "Everybody has their choice and it's a personal choice for me. I think it's easy for someone to do.

"I've already met a lot of like-minded people, I'd say," he said.

Coloradans have a model professional quarterback in Orton, and not only because he was named AFC offensive player of the week for his performance Sunday against New England.

His passion for the environment developed while growing up in tiny Runnells, Iowa, a town of not quite 400 people, where fishing and camping constitutes a big summer weekend.

While playing for the Chicago Bears, Orton emceed an Earth Day event at the Lincoln Park Zoo and joined Cool Globes, a group that raises money for environmental education in the Chicago public school system.

"For me, it's been an easy choice and it hasn't changed my lifestyle a whole lot," he said. "That doesn't mean it's for everybody, but it makes sense for me. I remember four years ago when I started thinking about it, I thought it would be some groundbreaking decision in your life. But it's easy decisions. There are small, little things you can do throughout the day that can make a difference."

He's done some big things too. Last year, Orton spearheaded the Bears' effort to start recycling at Halas Hall. The Bears now print out their playbook on recycled paper and put their pop cans into appropriate bins.

The Broncos, like many Colorado residents, have recycled for years.

Orton may wear orange and blue now, but he goes green seven days a week.

"Any time a person is able to take up a cause or show their support for something, it shows they're secure in their thoughts and beliefs," said Broncos right tackle Ryan Harris. "I think that translates to how he plays the game. He's secure and confident in his abilities."

On and off the field, Orton and Colorado are growing increasingly comfortable with each other. In almost every significant statistical passing category, Orton is superior to the quarterback he was traded for, Jay Cutler.

Orton's seven touchdown passes against one Hail Mary interception is the league's best TD-to-INT ratio.

Most important, Orton has a 5-0 record this season; 26-12 in his career.

"I don't know how elite quarterbacks are judged," Broncos' coach Josh McDaniels said. "All I care about is can he help us win and I know he can do that. I know he's done a nice job of running our offense and I feel we put a lot on his plate and he handles it.

"I think quarterbacks are judged on wins and losses, and touchdowns, and not turning the ball over. So far he's done a nice job."

The operative words there are "so far." Five games are not enough for the Broncos to begin talking long-term commitment with Orton, who is getting paid $995,000 in the final year of his contract.

With the league operating on an unsettled labor agreement and Orton's market value undetermined until it's known how far he brings the Broncos this season, contract extension talks have not begun.

But the way Orton is playing, the Broncos may eventually have to cut down a few trees to come up with enough money to keep him.

"I love Colorado, I love the Broncos," he said. "This organization has treated me extremely well ever since I've been here. I would certainly love to finish out my career here. It would be great."

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