LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Another quarterback switch for the floundering Chicago Bears.
Kyle Orton, who started 15 games as a rookie in 2005, returned to the role ahead of veteran Brian Griese on Monday.
Orton, who hasn't played since the season finale two years ago, will start next Monday night's game against the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome. His last start came on the same field on Jan. 1, 2006 when Minnesota beat Chicago 34-10. The Bears had already clinched a division title.
Orton was a shaky 6-for-14 for 59 yards with no touchdowns or turnovers before yielding to Jeff Blake in the fourth quarter of that game.
He's not thrown a regular-season pass since and has been primarily Chicago's third-team quarterback who runs the opponents' plays in practice.
"I think everybody knows that I've been frustrated and haven't liked my role, but it's what it was and I tried to make the best of it and now my job's just to focus on the future and try to play well and let everything work itself out," Orton said Monday.
"I think I've changed as a player and as a person. I've matured. I've been in the system now for three years. I feel very comfortable with it. ... I think I'm a better player now than I was when I was a rookie."
With the Bears out of the playoff picture at 5-8, with Rex Grossman expected to miss the rest of the season with a sprained knee ligament from Thursday's loss to the Redskins, coach Lovie Smith decided to go with Orton.
"Brian has done a lot of good things, but I just think it's just time to see exactly what Kyle can do," Smith said, adding that the Bears were not using the final three games as an evaluation for 2008.
And even though Orton will certainly be rusty and Griese has played well at times and not so well at others, Smith said that Orton would give the Bears the best chance to win in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL against one of the league's most opportune defenses.
Orton, a fourth-round pick out of Purdue, was 10-5 as a starter in 2005. Grossman, who was also injured most of that season, returned to start a regular-season win at Green Bay and then a loss to Carolina in the playoffs.
Now Orton has another chance. How long it lasts is not certain. Smith wouldn't say if Orton would start the final two games of the regular season against Green Bay and New Orleans.
Griese has completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 1,803 yards with 10 TD passes and 12 interceptions this season. Orton said Griese had been a mentor, who probably expected the switch.
"He was in there watching film with me this morning. He's been integral, and I just hope to build off of everything that he's taught me," Orton said.
"I think with the situation with our team -- where we're at right now -- I think he had an idea it was coming. It was something we had talked about personally. We haven't really talked a whole lot about the situation, but I think it's something that he in the back of his head knew was coming," Orton said.
Griese replaced a struggling Grossman as the starter after the third game of the season. But after Griese hurt his left shoulder in a game at Oakland on Nov.11, Grossman relieved and threw a go-ahead TD pass and then won his starting job back for the next four games before he was hurt again against the Redskins.
Griese replaced Grossman and threw a pair of interceptions while finishing 21-for-45 for 295 yards.
DTs Anthony Adams (triceps) and Antonio Garay (fractured lower leg) were put on injured reserve, leaving the Bears very thin on the defensive front. And DT Darwin Walker was walking around the locker room Monday with his left arm in a sling after hurting his elbow. The Bears promoted DT Babatunde Oshinowo from the practice squad.
The Associated Press News Service