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Bears settle for Josh McCown after Chiefs claim Kyle Orton

Quarterback Josh McCown (playing for Raiders against Bears 2007) has appeared 47 NFL games over eight seasons.  |

Quarterback Josh McCown (playing for the Raiders against the Bears in 2007) has appeared in 47 NFL games over eight seasons. | Marcio Jose Sanchez~AP

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Updated: December 26, 2011 8:57AM

As Caleb Hanie was taking practice snaps with the starting offense Wednesday, the Bears were working to secure his veteran backup. The Bears put in a waiver claim for Kyle Orton, who was surprisingly released by the Denver Broncos Tuesday. But when the club learned around 3 p.m. — the deadline for waiver claims — that the Kansas City Chiefs had snagged Orton, the Bears quickly announced the signing of Josh McCown to a one-year deal.

Orton was the team’s top choice to back up Hanie, and the veteran didn’t mask his desire to return to his original team, even after the Bears had traded him as part of the deal to land Jay Cutler.

Orton’s agent, David Dunn, had reportedly informed clubs that his client might not report, because of his desire to play in Chicago. But the Kansas City Star reported Wednesday evening that, pending the passing of a physical, Orton would be at the Chiefs’ practice Thursday. The Chiefs will then pick up the $2.58 million due to Orton in 2011 as part of the terms of his contract.

The Bears didn’t hesitate to make a move, once the Chiefs claimed Orton.

They have explored signing McCown several times, as far as back as 2006, according to coach Lovie Smith.

“I’m very excited,” McCown told the Sun-Times on Wednesday evening. “I’ve always kind of been interested [in the Bears], and I love what they do. They’ve got a good, hard-nosed football team, and they’ve done a great job over the last five or six years.

“Obviously, there’s that connection with coach [Mike] Martz, and I can jump into a system I’m familiar with. All those things make it neat and special. I just want to do whatever I can to help.”

McCown, 32, last played in a game in 2009, with the Carolina Panthers. He played under Martz in 2006, with the Detroit Lions. But he was with the San Francisco 49ers during training camp this year, and he completed all four pass attempts for 51 yards in the preseason finale against the San Diego Chargers.

“I felt like I played well,” McCown said of his time with the 49ers. “You kind of have this itch, and you’re like, ‘Oh man, I want to do it again.’

“Every competitor says, ‘I wish I was playing.’ But for me, you can’t question what God has planned for you. I had peace with it, but I can’t say there weren’t moments of frustration.”

Originally a third-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2002, McCown has started 31 of 47 games in eight ­seasons.

He’s 6-4, 213 pounds, and he played collegiately at Sam Houston State.

The Bears saved quite a bit of money on the transaction. They were willing to pick up the $2.58 million due to Orton. But instead they will pay just under $300,000 to McCown for the rest of this season.

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