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Chiefs, Bears both facing big questions at quarterback

December 4, 2011

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— No Jay Cutler. No Matt Cassel, either.

Star power at quarterback may be lacking when the Chicago Bears host the Kansas City Chiefs today. Intrigue won’t be hard to find, though.

Cutler is out indefinitely with a broken right thumb. A right hand injury ended Cassel’s season early. And that means both teams have big questions at quarterback.

Caleb Hanie is trying to keep the Bears (7-4) in contention with Cutler sidelined.

The Chiefs (4-7) have another issue at quarterback.

Coach Todd Haley said Tyler Palko’s the man — for now — even though Kyle Orton is in the fold. But how long will that last before Orton starts taking snaps against his former team?

“Tyler is our starter,” Haley said. “We got to get Kyle ready to play. He might have to play, and he might not. That’s the situation, right now, as we speak.”

Palko said, “I’m the starter, from what Todd has told me. And let everything else play out, as it may.”

So far, things haven’t played out well for Palko.

The Chiefs were forced to turn to the journeyman backup when Cassel suffered a season-ending hand injury, and he threw three interceptions in a 34-3 loss at New England two weeks ago. Things were no better in a 13-9 loss to Pittsburgh.

He fumbled away a snap and threw two picks in a span of three plays in the first half and got intercepted a third time in the closing minutes after leading the Chiefs down the field, sealing Kansas City’s fourth straight loss and second in a row without a touchdown.

That did nothing to quiet the calls for Orton, who was claimed off waivers from Denver last week. He arrived in Kansas City that Friday, leaving him no time to get ready for the Steelers game, but he’s had a week now.

Haley said Palko would get about 60 percent of the repetitions with the first-team offense this week, with Orton taking the rest.

If he gets the call against the Bears, the game could become even more interesting. Not only did Orton spend his first four years with Chicago before being traded to Denver for Cutler in 2009, the Bears also put in a claim for him. The Chiefs got him because they have a worse record.

“It’s my job to get ready as fast as I can,” Orton said. “I don’t make the decision on whether I play or not, I just go out on the practice field and perform whenever my coaches tell me to perform.”

For Chicago, there’s no question who will be lining up at quarterback.

Hanie is the man, and he probably will be with Cutler out as long as he doesn’t have some sort of meltdown.

“We’ve just got to be really careful what kind of situations we put him in,” Cutler said.

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