In the Mix

Lake Forest - Rookie quarterback Kyle Orton scoffed when asked if he had played well enough to keep the job when Rex Grossman returns from his fractured ankle.

"We're 5-3 and in first place in the division," Orton said. "So I'm just going to wait and let Lovie make the decision."

Grossman has targeted the week of the Nov. 27 Bucs game for his return to the practice field, although that seems extremely optimistic since he's only recently begun jogging.

Orton said he's pleased with the way he's played and the way the season has gone for the team, especially considering the dire predictions after Grossman's injury.

"I'm happy we're in first place," Orton said. "I feel like I've played well, and I've got a lot of confidence in the way I play. I thought going into the season that when I filled in there would hopefully not be any downfall at all at the quarterback position, and I feel like I'm getting better, and that's what I expected out of myself."

Orton's confidence has never appeared to falter, even when things have gone badly. Last week's game was a step back for him, but he came through with a 22-yard pass to Muhsin Muhammad on third-and-5 that set up the game-winning field goal. But he said he didn't need that one play to keep his confidence up.

"You've got to make plays on third downs, and it was a big point of the game," he said. "We needed a big play, and Moose made a nice catch on a nice route. I've got confidence. I don't need one play to give me confidence. I've got plenty of confidence. I'm not going to lose confidence if I throw a bad ball and I'm not really going to gain confidence if it's a good one."

The question remains if the decision makes have the same level of confidence in Orton. The passing offense ranks 29th in the NFL and winning a playoff game with a rookie quarterback is a different story than beating inferior weaker competition.

Despite the possibility of a late season quarterback controversy, head coach Lovie Smith only sees the impending return of Grossman as a positive.

"We have a plan in place and that's just to put Rex into the mix to make our quarterback position better," Smith. "Kyle Orton is our starting quarterback and from there, Rex will make the position better, no more than that right now."

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