IRVING -- Kyle Orton knows he could be an NFL starter. He has been one in 69 games and plans to be again one day.
Yet instead of searching for a starting quarterback job, Orton gladly became a Dallas Cowboys' backup.
"I thought about it," Orton said about looking for a starting position. "It was a consideration. But this fit best for me right now."
Dallas signed Orton to a three-year, $10.5 million contract in March, solidifying the second-string quarterback spot behind Tony Romo.
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"Everything I was looking for, I found," Orton said. "I'm really happy here, and I hope I can help this team any way I can."
Several teams, including Miami, Seattle, Cleveland and Washington entered the off-season looking for a starting quarterback. Orton could have pursued one of those jobs, but instead, he's a Cowboy.
"I was surprised when I got word that there was a chance [he might come to Dallas]," tight end Jason Witten said. "Obviously I was [excited] about it just because we know how important that position is."
Dallas quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson didn't even need to recruit Orton; the two worked together previously in Chicago.
"We rated all the free-agent quarterbacks, and he was at the top of our list, but we figured he was in a position where somebody would get him to start," Wilson said. "But he wanted to be in a defined role."
Since 2008, Romo has missed 13 games with injuries. During that time, Jason Garrett, as offensive coordinator and head coach, has been partial to veteran backup quarterbacks. Brad Johnson, who retired after playing 17 seasons in the NFL, was 1-2 filling in for Romo in '08. Jon Kitna, a 15-year veteran, went 4-5 starting for Romo in 2010. Stephen McGee (1-0) is the only other backup to replace Romo since '08, beating Philadelphia in the 2010 season finale after Kitna was injured.
Now, Orton will fill the role of experienced backup.
"This is Tony's team," Orton said. "I want to help him out any way I can. I just like my situation here. It's a team that plays in big games, lots of big games. A team that puts in the work and plays hard. I feel like I can fit right in."
Orton, who is entering his ninth season in the NFL, has a 35-34 career record as a starter. As a rookie for Chicago in 2005, he was 10-5. But Orton didn't play at all in 2006 and hasn't compiled another 10-win season while bouncing back and forth from starter to backup with Chicago, Denver and Kansas City.
Orton said his rocky journey helped him learn how to prepare as a second-string player.
"You don't get the reps, so a lot of the stuff is in the film room, in the playbook and watching Tony do it," Orton said. "Certainly the approach is different. I've been a backup before, so I'm pretty comfortable with it."
As a veteran, most of the Dallas formations and plays are familiar to Orton. He has worked during OTA practices to learn the Cowboys' terminology.
"It's kind of like a foreign language," Orton said. "But I'm picking it up pretty quickly. Once I get the play called in the huddle, I feel like I'm pretty comfortable."
Orton hasn't ruled out starting somewhere in the future.
"I feel like I have a lot of good ball left in me," Orton said. "But I don't see this as committing myself as a backup. I see this as committing myself to coming here to be part of the team. I thought a lot about it. And this is definitely the right place for me at this time in my career."
Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760