As an NFL quarterback, Dan Orlovsky goes to work each day to confront the complexities of hot routes and zone blitzes, handling each task with aplomb. • But at home, where the tables are turned, defense doesn't come as naturally. • On this particular morning, as Orlovsky, 29, chases his 2-foot-tall adversary around the living room — that would be Noah — he doesn't stand a chance. As he closes in on his first target, another adversary, Hunter, takes off crawling at a blinding pace. Somewhere in the mix is little Madden, eventually found hiding behind a sofa.
Good thing Orlovsky, quarterback Josh Freeman's backup, plays offense, because as a defender he has committed the cardinal sin of losing containment.
Think pro football is tough? Try raising 11-month-old triplets. It's the daily charge of the Bucs' Orlovsky and his wife, Tiffany.
"Every once in a while, I'm home by myself with them," Dan said of the troublesome trio. "All I do is run around the house looking for them. I always lose them."
A few hours at the Orlovsky residence is enough to gain an appreciation for the gargantuan task that is now their lives. The job is expensive, tiring and thankless but also exhilarating, fulfilling and blissful.
Their situation is unusual. Spontaneous triplets (without fertility treatments) account for about only one in every 8,000 births. Madden and Hunter are identical, Noah is fraternal.
Tiffany still recalls the day their doctor told her and her husband they should expect three bundles of joy.
Dan's first response was, "This is awesome!" Tiffany said, mimicking Dan's elation. Her reaction: "Awesome?"
Ultimately, both agree Dan was right. But life is not without challenges.
It's a Tuesday, which means the Bucs have their only day off — until Dan heads to One Buc Place for a couple of hours in the late afternoon to get a jump on the week's game plan. It's 11:45 a.m., which means it's feeding time.
"This is an experience," Dan warns.
Three high chairs are arranged in a row, and the process begins. After that comes an assembly line of diaper changes. Meanwhile, a trio of bottle warmers is humming, preparing the warm milk that — they hope — will induce afternoon naps.
It's only noon, and even if the boys aren't sleepy, their parents could use a nap. But rest will have to wait. They have plans later to hit Target for some shopping. That can get interesting.
"We have this triple stroller, and you get some strange looks," Tiffany said.
"We feel like getting a sign that says, 'Yes, we're very blessed, and no, we don't sleep,' " Dan joked.
At the cash register, where the couple unloads countless containers of baby food and assorted child-related items, it's hard to know who is more surprised, the Orlovskys — from the sticker shock — or the cashier. No, there is nothing cheap about raising triplets.
"I think we've spent more this year on (baby) formula and diapers than on our mortgage," Dan said. "In fact, I know so."
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They purchase formula via the Internet in bulk. Three active boys who burn as many calories as these guys have considerable appetites. Before they started eating other food, the three could consume 30 baby bottles a day.
A priority is solidifying the kids' futures, so shortly after their births, Dan went to see his financial adviser.
"We crunched the numbers," Dan said. "We figured that in 18 years, four years at an out-of-state college would cost $700,000. So we're taking care of that."
But Dan and Tiffany can't put a price on their experiences. The hardships are offset by cherished moments.
Personalities are starting to develop. Noah, his parents say, is the biggest ball of energy. Hunter, Tiffany says, is a "mama's boy." Madden, Dan says, is the sharpest: "Like a little Einstein."
The boys have come very far. Born prematurely, their birth weights ranged from 2 pounds, 15 ounces, to 4 pounds, 13 ounces. Tiffany remembers at one point during their six weeks of hospitalization, with tubes coming out of every orifice, that drinking 2 milliliters of milk "was a really big deal." Now they're practically horseplaying with their dad.
Dan would love to spend all day taking it all in. But NFL quarterbacks, with all they must absorb, keep long hours. He's out the door by 5 a.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
"My first responsibility is here at home, but I have a responsibility to my team, too," he said. "I get in early. Me and (running backs coach) Earnest Byner have a little competition going on."
Dan, in his eighth season, has started 12 games in his career. In Tampa he happily plays a support role to Freeman, with whom he has developed a great rapport. Orlovsky believes Freeman will be a star, marveling at his ability.
Off the field, Orlovsky and Freeman, who is 24 and single, don't exactly spend a lot of time together.
"I don't think Josh wants to be sitting in the house on Friday night with my wife and three little kids," Dan said, "I'm sure he has better things to do. He tells me, 'Give the kids kisses for me.' "
When Dan is invited by teammates to play golf or have a beer, he'll usually pass. He'd rather go home and give Tiffany a break. He insists she get her "me" time.
Through it all, husband and wife have seen different sides of each other.
"I've gained a whole new respect for her," Dan says of Tiffany. "I'm so glad I married her."
Tiffany says of Dan, "He's such a great dad."
And he is, even if he stinks at defense.