Players locked out, but Broncos' Tebow locked in

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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DENVER -- The high-wattage stadium lights were absent in February as Tim Tebow and his brother Robby tossed the football around for the umpteenth time.

Perhaps the second glances from passersby came because the light bulbs in the parking-lot stanchions weren't bright enough to truly make out the identities of these two young men.

Or maybe it was because it was a hotel blacktop in Dallas where this game of catch was taking place -- after midnight. This simply couldn't be the Denver Broncos quarterback passing with the stars as a backdrop, could it?

Tim Tebow is working hard to make sure all the kids wearing his jersey get to display the name of a starting NFL quarterback. (Getty Images)  
Tim Tebow is working hard to make sure all the kids wearing his jersey get to display the name of a starting NFL quarterback. (Getty Images)  
Then again, the Tebow brother whose NFL jersey sales skyrocketed as a rookie due to some combination of his swagger, history as one of college football's greatest players and squeaky-clean image, had only hours before been the keynote speaker at a CEO fellowship conference with some of the top executives in America. So maybe this was the mystery man, after all.

In hindsight, the locale might have been slightly unconventional, but the sight of Tebow not working out would have been more strange.

Ever since Tebow's three-week audition as starter to end the 2011 season, his arm, body and mind have been in constant motion, like a shark that can't stop moving.

If it's not a late-night hotel parking lot excursion, it could be a moonlit trip to a nearby football field, basketball court or other plot of land to get prepared for the post-lockout world, when he'll battle veterans Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn for the Broncos' starting job.

Throwing sessions aren't always the centerpiece. Tebow may take a day or two off from tossing the pigskin to work on cardiovascular conditioning, his core, abdominals, lower or upper body.

But throwing passes incessantly has become the norm in recent months.

"It's actually funny," related brother Robby, who handles all of Tim's off-the-field business interests and who, during seemingly the rest of his waking moments, serves as wide receiver for his sibling. "He likes working out late at night, 12 o'clock at night. Or, after a meal he'll go, 'Let's go work out,' and I'm like, 'Dude, I'm stuffed.' He doesn't care."

On the contrary, Tim Tebow cares.

Obsessively.

The questions about whether he has the goods physically to be a starting pro quarterback, because of his loopy throwing motion or lack of experience in the pocket, are only a small part of the fuel that drives him.

His competitive nature is innate, formed at an age when most kids were happy to be bouncing on Hippity-Hops at preschool field days.

"I like working out not only regular times but other times, too, because I feel that edge of, 'I'm working right now and there's not a lot of guys working right now,'" said the second-year QB, making a statement that seems to carry even greater weight given the NFL's work stoppage and a lack of team organized training activities nationwide.

"The quote I've had on my door since I was a little boy is, 'Somewhere he is out there training and I'm not. And when we meet, he will win.' That's something that's always motivated me, because if I go to sleep early, is there someone else training? Is there somebody looking at their playbook? It doesn't have to always be physical either. Am I getting better?"

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The answer relating to whether he's good enough won't be fully determined until Tebow takes the field with all eyes on him whenever the Broncos reconvene workouts.

Broncos brass has publicly named Orton the starter, with Tebow and Quinn in the running. But new coach John Fox told season-ticket holders Monday via conference call that the pecking order isn't fully set, and that's closer to the truth.

"As I get to know them, watch them and see them compete," Fox said, "that's when you start ranking them one through three."

"I do think it's a competition and that's the best way," Tebow responded. "I think that's the way everything should be."

Of course Tebow feels that way, because while his game may still have some kinks, there are few as competitive and willing to put the work in to improve.

This is a player who, on the way to his introductory press conference as a first-round draft pick out of the University of Florida in April 2010, was doing pushups in the aisle of the airplane during the trip, then went to a local Sports Authority to gear up for a workout at the team facility after meeting the media.

This is a player who, when he discovered that 2011 first-round Broncos draft pick Von Miller would share a stage at a community event Tuesday at Invesco Field at Mile High, prodded the team's new addition to work out with him afterward. Miller told him he didn't have the proper shoes. Tebow said he would take care of it, and off they went to run, lift and discuss the future.

"When you go to the Pro Bowl, those guys are typically not only the greatest players but the ones that work the hardest. But Tim is a little different, from what I've heard," said John Lynch, a future Hall of Fame safety who invited Tebow and Miller to address the crowd at his annual foundation luncheon, which honors Denver-area youth who excel academically, in sports and the community.

"He's my neighbor so I see him," Lynch continued. "He's out on a mountain bike going by and it looks like he never has a down moment. We were having dinner one night at some folks' house and the lady was a great tennis player. Next thing you know they break into a ping-pong match. Tim's sweating. And she beat him the first game. He was going to stay until he won. I mean, he would not leave."

That's not to say Lynch, an analyst for FOX Sports these days, doesn't recognize the "serious legitimate questions" about Tebow's ability to smooth over his mechanical flaws on the field and break free of the spread-offense tendencies the former Heisman Trophy winner learned in college.

"There are a lot of things he has to prove," Lynch admitted. "But there's an aura. He's got that aura, for whatever that's worth. And that means something to me."

Tebow knows the questions about whether he's fully cut out to start widely exist mainly because he hears about them all the time. Instead of internalizing the negativity, he has made becoming a proficient -- no, great -- pocket passer the focus of his twice- to thrice-daily workouts, seven days a week, not just at the behest of coaches but because he believes it's what is necessary to take the next career step.

He doesn't buy that a lack of team workouts will affect his chances at starting, either, because, as he put it, "however it works, I've still got time to compete before the season."

Lynch, for what it's worth, predicts Tebow will be the starter at some point this year, but said he's unsure if that moment will come in Week 1.

"The biggest thing for me is I've really been working on a lot of play-action passes out there, all under center," Tebow said of his current regimen. "I haven't had one rep in the shotgun, just to make being under center the most comfortable it can be for me and get it more comfortable than even being in the shotgun. So I've worked 100 percent on play-action passes. Then, it's just timing and going off one receiver to the next receiver, whether that's throwing to receivers really running or my brother standing there."

The Broncos' receiving corps has been scattered around the country the past several months, but Tebow figures he has spent time on the field with all of them.

Still, most of his work has been with Robby, who jokes he's developing pretty good hands from all his receiving practice. Tim Tebow stations his brother where his second and third reads would be on Broncos pass plays, to address the mental aspects of the game.

"He's gotten very, very accurate, and he's developed," Robby Tebow maintained. "He just wants to keep improving, so throughout the last year, even since the offseason started when the lockout happened and he couldn't really be here training with his coaches anymore, he's been determined to get better every day. And that's what he's been doing."

Tebow isn't quite perfect, though, despite Lynch joking that the QB was invited to his foundation's event because "I needed good weather" (and also to bestow a Leadership Legend Award on Tebow despite his relative youth).

There was that lackluster showing at the ping-pong table, for one.

Secondly, Tebow's mountain-bike rides have become maybe a little too leisurely.

"He's so focused he doesn't even see me half the time. It's terrible," Lynch said of his neighbor. "He's got his shirt off, so all the moms are like, 'Ahhhh ...'

"Come on Tim," Lynch added. "Put on your Jockey."

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