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Orton in better shape to face Packers
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/19/2008 12:04 AM

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Seven weeks removed from the sprained ankle that caused him to miss the Tennessee Titans game on Nov. 9, Bears quarterback Kyle Orton will be much more mobile than he was Nov. 16 at Green Bay.

"We've obviously looked at that tape a bunch," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said, "and I don't know if we realized going into it that he was going to be as bad as he was injury-wise.

"He couldn't move at all. He couldn't push off it to throw. I think his timing and everything else, his confidence right now, is so much better than it was at that time."

Orton completed just 13 of 26 passes for 133 yards in the first Packers game, and in that game and the next four he has thrown just 5 touchdown passes and 6 interceptions.

His passer rating has dropped from 90.8 to 80.1 in the past five games, his completion percentage from 61.9 to 58.9, and his yards per pass attempt from 7.25 to 6.45.

After the game five weeks ago at Lambeau Field, Orton didn't use his injury as an excuse for the Bears' poor play. But he admits he's moving a lot better now than he was then, and that should give the offense a wider selection of plays.

"I don't think my ankle had any outcome on the game," Orton said. "They came out and beat us. Healthy or not, I don't think it would have changed the outcome of the game. My ankle is certainly better now than it was, and we can do a lot more stuff play-call wise."

Basic stuff: Coach Lovie Smith had a simple explanation for why the Packers were able to run all over his team for 200 yards in their last meeting, the most yards the Bears have allowed on the ground in more than two years.

"They beat us up front last time," Smith said. "Hopefully we can do something about it this time."

Packers running back Ryan Grant had season highs of 145 rushing yards (on 25 carries) and a 5.8-yard average per carry in that game, which elevated Green Bay to 5-5 and into a tie with the Bears for the NFC North lead and ahead of the Vikings at 4-6.

"We did feel like it was ours to take, but we knew we had to take care of our business," Grant said of the division race. "We felt if we did our part, things would work out and the division would be ours.

"But we didn't take care of ours, so it really didn't make a difference what anybody else did."

Injury update: Defensive tackle Tommie Harris (knee) was able to participate fully in Thursday's outdoor practice, and wide receiver Marty Booker (ribs) was limited, but running back Matt Forte (toe) and fullback Jason McKie (quadriceps) did not practice.

Forte is expected to practice today and start Monday night.

"It seems like we'll have our entire roster available," coach Lovie Smith said, "which is good this time of year."

Just missed: Tommie Harris was voted as a first alternate to the Pro Bowl, center Olin Kreutz, punter Brad Maynard and tight end Greg Olsen were second alternates, and Devin Hester and Brian Urlacher were third alternates.