Hearing Orton speak at OTA's earlier today, reminded me of when it was first speculated that Restricted Free Agents would be advised to stay away from the non-mandatory team activities. The idea was that there would be a show of solidarity, and that the players were perfectly within their rights to do such a thing. But for a player like Orton, the QB and leader of the team, the question was much more difficult. He had as much right as anyone to protest the unfair treatment under the abrogated CBA, and yet he actually NEEDED to be at OTA's, which for QBs and coaches amount to the beginning of the 2010 offensive installation.
Word was, Orton would be there, but until he actually was there, the worry remained.
Turns out, the worries were for nothing. Hearing him speak today makes it seem inconceivable that he would ever have stayed away.
"[Quinn] coming in hasn't changed my work ethic, hasn't changed my approach to this season. I knew we had to get better as an offense, and there is no way we are going to do that if I'm not here."
One thing that really stands out is how confident Orton is in improvement from year one to year two, both his own and the offense as a whole, which is a train of thought that aligns well with everything we have talked about so far in the offseason here at MHR. What I like is that a lot of his belief in the improvement of the team comes from his belief in himself, and his dedication to being what the Patriots called "the hardest working guy in the building."
I think I can take my leadership to whole new level. To have a great offense you have got to have a guy that demands it from eveybody, starting with himself. So I have to demand perfection out of my play. And, I'll expect that from everyone else on offense, as well.
He also specifically pointed to the offensive players familiarity with eachother, noting that despite having the entire playbook installed for 2009, there were too many times when he might see something from the opposing defense and need to find a way of signaling or relaying that to the receivers. He indicated that he felt they would now be able to make the same hookup with little more than a look.
He mentioned Eddie in this same breath, and made it clear that Broncos fans weren't the only ones who considered Eddie's dropoff in performance from 2009 to be startling, verging on absurd. He said he had had spoken to Eddie specifically in regards to finding ways to overcome whatever was holding him back, and he seemed to feel that it was primarily a case of not being on the same page with the young WR, yet another instance where more familiarity can only help.
[Familiarity] is important in this league. When you can play with guys without any question on what you are going to do, well, the defense presents enough problems as it is. If you can know what each guy on your team is going to do, it makes it that much easier.
And while familiarity stands to be highly evolved in the 2010 incarnation of the "skill positions" on offense, one area where there is likely to be little familiarity at all is along the offensive line, and Orton's comment in this area is telling, and somewhat contradictory to his confidence in the inevitable improvement that comes with a 2nd year in the system.
Now to be clear, Orton emphasized that he is not involved in telling McX or anyone else what players or positions need addressed in the teambuilding phases of any team he has played on. As he says, "That isn't my job." But when asked if he had confidence in the Broncos Offensive Center situation, he replied:
We've got guys. You've got the draft, free agency is still around. But we have guys who can play ball.
This was immediately prefaced by a comment that the Front office and coaches "knew what direction they were taking the team." You add that together and you have a QB in a situation where he has confidence in the people handling the situation, not where the situation is now. I think that could be said about a lot of us, but it is clear that the team is just as in the dark about the Center position as all of us are...
He also talked about Prodays and had some funny comments, noting that players have 4 years of game tape, and that says a lot more than any proday. To be fair, though, he is talking from the perspective of a QB, and he is right, no one cares about his 40 time. But for the majority of players in the draft, it is a story of size and athleticism, the two traits that won't change for a player going from one level to the next, amidst a life in which almost EVERYTHING else, does change.
I was also pleased to be reminded that he has taken on a role with the team where he acts as a liaison between the Union and the team with advice on how player's should be preparing themselves for the accelerating labor strife. He is obviously an intelligent person, and his concern for his teammates and fellow players is clear.
When it comes to preparing himself, and his teammates there can be no doubt that Orton's mind is in the right place. Unfortunately, when he looks forward, Orton doesn't see a great situation in 2011, so it is understandable if 2010 has his undivided attention in OTAs. He also seems to recognize where his bread is buttered:
The fact is [a lockout] looks like it is going to happen, and as players we need to be ready for it.
...There is a lot of money for everyone to make. We have the best fanbase in the world, we're gaining market share over every sport in the US. This is the most powerful, best sport in the world, and it is because of the fans. And there is only one way to lose a fan, and that is to get locked out. Hopefully that never happens.