IRVING -- Backup quarterback Kyle Orton has eight years in the NFL and one spring with the Dallas Cowboys.
But that's not enough right now.
Since he missed the veteran minicamp in June with a hamstring injury, he's welcoming the chance to work in three pre-training camp practices this week at Valley Ranch.
"I'm like a lot of these young guys. I've been in the system about the same amount of time," he said.
So even though Orton has started 69 games in a career that includes stops in Chicago and Denver, and has a long connection to quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson, he said he still needs to take advantage of every practice.
"It's important for me," he said. "You just kind of want to knock the rust off as soon as you can. I didn't go through minicamp. I like where I was in the OTAs [organized team activities]. I thought I had a good off-season."
Orton is not going to get the same chance for reps when training camp starts next week in Oxnard, Calif.
He'll work behind Tony Romo, which means he'll work when Romo needs a break.
"These reps are important for me," Orton said. "Tony's going to get the majority of the reps. I'm going to be doing a lot of mental reps. That's just the way it is."
Orton can count on a lot of work in the preseason games.
That is one reason this week of practices is important to him.
"A lot of these guys are the guys who I'm playing with in the preseason," he said. "So it's always good to get a few more days."
Rookie tight end Andrew Szczerba said the presence of the veterans helps everyone.
"He's just a confident guy," Szczerba said. "He takes control of the huddle. When guys are little tired, he boosts them up. And also in the meeting rooms, you have a question, he's there, as he should be, as one of the veteran quarterbacks."
With Romo not in the practices this week, it's fallen to Orton and veterans Stephen McGee and Rudy Carpenter to be in charge.
"I've been around, been through a lot of this stuff," Orton said. "These guys are going through it for the first time. We're thin on numbers. These guys are tired. We're taking a ton of reps. All of these quarterbacks have kind of been around, so we can all lend a helping hand."
His message to the rookies and free agents around him?
"This is the NFL. It's hard to make a team," he said. "And once you make the team, it's hard to get on the field. So once they make the team, they're going to see stuff tougher than this."
After eight years in the NFL and one spring with the Cowboys, Orton ought to know.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760