IRVING, Texas** – The preparation may not change much, but the circumstances certainly have for Kyle Orton as he prepares to potentially make his first start for the Cowboys for the injured Tony Romo this week.
Orton's taking practice reps with the first team offense for the first time this year as the Cowboys get ready for their most important game of the season in a win or go home matchup at AT&T Stadium against the Eagles in Week 17.
"Just excited, you know, just to be able to get some practice reps," Orton said. "It felt good today, just kind of see how it plays out throughout the week, but it really doesn't change my preparation at all. Just get the added benefit of getting some reps during the week, which was good."
The Cowboys still haven't ruled Romo out, but Orton, who's been the backup in Dallas the last two years, is their go-to guy if Romo can't go. They also added Jon Kitna for further depth.
Orton's thrown a pass in just two games the last two years, going 3-for-5 for 40 yards against the Bears this year and going 9-for-10 with a touchdown against the Bears last year.
Prior to joining the Cowboys, he made 69 career starts in stops with the Bears, Broncos and Chiefs. He said the feeling is excitement, not pressure, getting to throw to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and hand the ball off to DeMarco Murray in this situation.
"I fall back on my experience," Orton said. "I've played a lot of games in this league and I've had some success. Just excited. The group of guys I've got around me, I don't really feel like I've got to go out there and do too much – get the ball to the playmakers and give it to 29 and 82 and 88 and let those guys go to work."
Orton emphasized the importance of not trying to do too much. His plan is to get the ball out as quickly as possible to the open receiver, and he believes the Cowboys have multiple options who know how to get free and make plays.
Though Orton hasn't worked with the first team during the regular season, he did get to work with the team's top offensive players while Romo was out in the offseason, particularly during Organized Team Activities.
"Any time you're a backup, all the reps you can get with the guys are important," Orton said. I was kind of fortunate to get a lot of the reps during OTAs. That's a long time ago, but I've practiced hard throughout the whole year and really feel like my game's in a great spot right now and I'm really confident heading into the week."
It's beneficial for Orton that he's had two years now to learn the playbook.
Even if his first start comes 16 games into the season, he's confident he can step in, and the offensive linemen in front of him share that feeling. Orton complimented what the line's been able to do, and the success of the line in recent weeks gives Orton even more confidence he can step in quickly.
"I think the whole offensive line's played great," Orton said. "Obviously in the run game to have a 1,000-yard rusher going into Week 17 is a great deal and what they've done pass pro-wise has been really good." [embedded_ad]
Both center Travis Frederick and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau said not much will change for them and how they block, regardless of which quarterback's behind them.
"Kyle knows the offense," Bernadeau said. "He's been with this system for a while. Just calling the plays in the huddle, his demeanor knowing the offense, calling the protections, making the mike points, the sight adjustments and hot adjustments that he reads, I'm very confident. I know that he knows the offense. So when we communicate and talk up front, we're thinking what he's thinking. It meshes real well. I have all the confidence in his ability."
Orton said when Romo got injured late against the Redskins, he saw the situation as everyone else did.
Romo didn't say much about the injury to his teammates as he battled out to the end of the game. Orton didn't realize at the time what was to come based on Romo's reaction. He complimented the starter's ability to finish the game the way he did.
"I think Tony played a great game in Washington," Orton said. "Obviously, dealing with what he dealt with toward the end of the game there was great stuff. I know if he can be out there playing, he'll be out there."
If Romo can go, Orton knows he'll probably be relegated back to the bench. But with Romo's playing status in serious doubt, Orton's ready for the opportunity in front of him.
"No doubt I'm excited," Orton said. "We'll see how Tony heals up. He's a great quarterback, he's had a great year and I know he wants to finish this thing out. But as a backup, that's your job to be ready to go whenever it is. I think the guys have got a lot of confidence in me, I know I've got a lot of confidence in myself, and I'm excited to play."