Orlovsky’s return to the Lions, where his career began as a fifth-round draft pick in 2005, is in the same role of backup quarterback that he held when he departed as a free agent after the 2008 season. It was made clear then that there was no realistic chance to upgrade his status to a starter in Detroit.
Accepting a backup role – which he also held with the Texans (2009-10), Colts (2011), Buccaneers (2012-13) – does not mean Orlovsky has marched in place in his career. And he has not retreated from his personal goals of maximizing opportunities and supporting his teammates.
Helping the team win, in any manner possible, is his ultimate contribution. It isn’t limited to his dealings with the quarterbacks.
“I don’t think you can underestimate the value of it,” Orlovsky said over the weekend. “There is an enormous value in being a good teammate. It’s important for me to understand my role.
“I talk to the younger guys. I talk to the defense and offer them a nugget here and there. Over 16 games, if one or two players can make a play here and there, that’s the difference between going on and going home.”
Orlovsky, who turns 31 next month, was speaking over the telephone from his home in Tampa, where he lives with his wife, Tiffany, and triplet sons who were born on Dec. 28, 2011. Orlovsky returned to Tampa after last week’s minicamp. Until he finds a place to live in Metro Detroit, he’ll commute and return to Allen Park to resume the offseason workouts on Mondays.
It is clear cut that
Shaun Hill, who filled the backup position the last four years, left a void when he signed with the Rams in the offseason.
Orlovsky signed a one-year contract earlier this month. He is reunited with head coach Jim Caldwell, who was head coach in Orlovsky’s one season with the Colts.
Also on the roster is
Orlovsky has played on two of the biggest losers in recent years, and he has made something positive from the negative experiences.
On the 2008 Lions, Orlovsky started seven games for a team that made history by posting the only 0-16 record.
On the 2011 Colts, Orlovsky started five games for a team that was 0-13 but won the next two games with Orlovsky as the starter to finish 2-14 and avoid membership in the 0-16 club.
There was nothing historic in his last two seasons with the Bucs, but they skidded through a period when they lost 13 of 14 games over two seasons.
Orlovsky would rather have avoided the 0-16 experience in Detroit, but it proved valuable with the Colts.
“You realize how important it is to win and do whatever it takes to win,” he said. “That whole process taught me a lot about the importance of the position, and how important every single play is.
“It was a long year (2008), and it was hard. It hardened me. I was a part of some rough games.”
Orlovsky had a play in 2008 that is a staple on the all-time blooper reel. In a loss to Minnesota in Game 5, Orlovsky inadvertently ran out of the back of the end zone to avoid the pass rush, giving the Vikings a safety and two points that ultimately proved to be the margin of defeat in a 12-10 loss.
“A bonehead play,” he said, reflecting back.
Orlovsky’s experience with Caldwell was one reason he told agent David Dunn to push for signing with the Lions when he became a free agent after last season.
The Orlovsky triplets were born the week of Indy’s last game in 2011. It was a hectic time, with the Colts in a period of upheaval. Caldwell was fired on Jan. 17.
“About three weeks after the season, I got a call from Coach,” Orlovsky said. “He said, ‘I just wanted to check and see how your boys are doing.’ That rang volumes for me – the type of person he is.
“The good thing about Coach Caldwell is, he’s very direct. I knew he’d be honest. He was very much to the point. Going to work every day is a big deal. I wanted to work for somebody you enjoy working for.”
Orlovsky has gotten a close look at Stafford in minicamp and the two previous weeks of conditioning drills. Stafford’s throwing ability didn’t surprise him, but he had no knowledge of Stafford’s work ethic.
“Physically, there’s nothing that happened in the first three weeks that surprised me,” Orlovsky said. “He’s unbelievably talented. I didn’t know he had this strong of a work ethic. He works really hard. He picked up the offense pretty readily.
“What he potentially can say is, ‘It’ll come with time,’ but he’s really attacking it. And he has leadership skills. You can’t teach having a really strong arm. You can’t teach having a work ethic.
“It’s just a matter of time until everything clicks right.”