KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Poked, prodded and asked about his starting quarterback just about every way possible, Kansas City Chiefs coach Todd Haley had the same answer every time: Tyler Palko is the guy.
That doesn't mean Kyle Orton won't get the majority of the snaps Sunday at Chicago.
Haley said before practice Wednesday that Palko would get about 60 percent of the repetitions with the first-team offense this week. Orton, who was claimed off waivers from Denver a week ago, will get the remaining 40 percent as he tries to learn the playbook and his new teammates.
"Tyler's our starter. We're getting Kyle ready to play," Haley said. "He's not like a guy who's been here a couple of years. It's a different situation. So we're getting him ready to play." Orton didn't arrive in Kansas City until last Friday, two days after he was claimed, which kept him from having a chance to play Sunday night against Pittsburgh.
Orton was inactive for the game, and Palko threw three interceptions and fumbled a snap in a disheartening 13-9 loss.
Palko took the first set of repetitions in quarterback drills during the few minutes of practice that the media was allowed to observe Wednesday. Orton took the second series.
"It's not a perfect world. It's not going to be perfect," Orton said afterward. "You just make do the best you can, prepare yourself the best you can. That's something that I've always prided myself on, being the best prepared on the field every week."
Orton said that, contrary to some rumors, he wasn't hoping to land in Chicago, which also was looking for a quarterback after losing Jay Cutler for the season. The Bears put in a claim on Orton, but the Chiefs got him because they had the priority by virtue of their worse win-loss record.
"That's out of the players hands. I know a lot was made of it," said Orton, who also denied any notion that he contemplated not reporting to Kansas City. "I didn't say anything about that. I think people try to connect the dots and say, you know, he would love to go there."
Palko, who was pressed into duty when Matt Cassel went down with a season-ending hand injury, tossed three interceptions in his debut as an NFL starter against New England.
The journeyman backup didn't fare much better against the Steelers, fumbling a snap and throwing two picks in a span of three offensive plays in the first half. But he was good enough to keep Kansas City in the game, leading the offense down field in the closing minutes before his final interception sealed the Chiefs' fourth consecutive defeat - and second straight without scoring a touchdown.
Palko said that he's preparing to make his third straight start, even though he knows full well that the Chiefs aren't paying the remainder of Orton's salary - about $2.6 million - to have him sit on the bench the rest of the way.
"Every week you have to earn the right to put your hands under center and lead the team, whether we're 2-0 and I'm playing well or what's happened the last two weeks," Palko said. "I'm not looking at it any different this week. It's hard a position to play; you're going to have your ups and downs."
There have been a lot of downs for the Chiefs lately.
Kansas City has lost many of its best players to season-ending injuries, among them safety Eric Berry and running back Jamaal Charles. The result has been a wildly inconsistent team that lost three straight, and then managed to run off four straight wins to tie for the AFC West lead.
Turns out all that may have done is eliminate them from the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.
The Chiefs were trounced 31-3 by then-winless Miami at home, and lost 17-10 to the Broncos, when quarterback Tim Tebow threw all of two passes. It was late in that game that Cassel hurt his throwing hand, and surgery the next day landed him along with many of his buddies on injured reserve.
Kansas City lost 34-3 to New England and, combined with last weekend's loss to Pittsburgh, hasn't managed a touchdown since the third quarter against the Broncos - a span of nearly 50 offensive series and more than 143 minutes of game time.
Regardless who is under center Sunday, that must change if the Chiefs have any prayer of winning.
"There's growing pains that come along with playing this position," Palko said. "Fortunately or unfortunately, any way you look at it, you're kind of getting baptized by fire. You can't make the mistakes that I've made. They're killing our team right now. But that's why the quarterback position is the hardest to play in all of sports. You get the blame either way."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)