Tebow puts in the hard work, but will it pay off?

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- If practice makes perfect, then practice should make Denver's Tim Tebow an NFL star.

Yeah, I know, we're a long way from there, but give the league's most popular backup quarterback this: He regularly stays after practice to refine his passing game and was there again Monday afternoon. In fact, he was the last member of the Broncos to quit the field, walking off nearly an hour after the team was through.

Only there was something notable about this workout, and it had nothing to do with his receiver, rookie Greg Orton, and everything to do with his instructor.

It was John Elway.

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The Hall of Fame quarterback, now the team's executive vice president of football operations, stood alongside Tebow and studied him as he made throw after throw after throw to the end zone. First it was a series of corner routes. Then it was a series of crossing routes. Always, they were to the back of the end zone, and always they were followed by advice from Elway.

"We kind of did everything in that period," said Tebow. "Every type of drop. But more than anything, it was working on footwork and having the same footwork on every single drop. If you have the footwork, you have the same base. And when you have the same base every time, you can have the same throw every time."

Meaning ...

"If your base changes," said Tebow, "then your shoulder is going to change, and your arm is going to change. But if you have the same base you have the same type of drop, whether it's three or five or seven steps, and your throws won't change. So you can get consistency."

Ah, now we're getting somewhere. Because inconsistency has been Tebow's hangup since he stepped into an NFL huddle. You get the good, the bad and the ugly with his passing game, and Tebow is the first to admit that must change for him to move up the depth chart.

Right now, he's sitting No. 2 behind Kyle Orton, but reporters who cover the team will tell you that Brady Quinn has outplayed Tebow in training camp and is more qualified to be the backup.

Which is why Tim Tebow was working with Elway Monday afternoon, determined to improve his game and work out the flaws that are holding him down. I don't know that he does it, and I don't know that he doesn't. What I do know is that it's hard to knock a guy who puts in the time and work Tim Tebow is this summer.

Tebow would be an All-Pro based on work ethic alone -- but will it be enough to achieve NFL success? (Getty Images)  
Tebow would be an All-Pro based on work ethic alone -- but will it be enough to achieve NFL success? (Getty Images)  
Of course, that hasn't stopped the hate mail, with ESPN's Merrill Hoge earlier this month declaring that "it's embarrassing to think the Broncos could win with Tebow." Well, maybe it is, but Tebow last year won one of three starts -- or one more than Troy Aikman won in 11 starts his rookie season.

That's not to compare the two. It's just a reminder to let the poor guy breathe, for crying out loud. It's his second season and first with a new coaching staff -- a coaching staff, by the way, that didn't draft him. So Tebow practices, practices and practices some more, hoping to make himself into a bona fide NFL quarterback.

"I believe I can play at this level," he said. "I just have to go out there and show it and get consistently better. Every single day I try to get better and work as hard as I can on improving, and not worry about everything else, like what people are saying or what's happening.

"If I continue to be focused, work hard and compete every day I come out here, compete with my teammates, compete with myself, compete with what I did the day before, I can get better. Then I can stay focused.

"But if you listen to what people say, how many reps you get, how many reps you don't get … you can get too high or too low. It's never as bad as it seems, and it's never as good as it seems. You can only worry about what you can control. And that's my philosophy as to how I go about it, if that makes sense."

Well, yeah, it does. So does a second-year quarterback struggling. What doesn't are the vicious attacks the guy absorbs, some of them personal. Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon wants to talk about how unfair and prejudiced critics were with Cam Newton this spring; well, then, how does he explain Tim Tebow?

Before there was Cam Newton, there was Tim Tebow. He had a longer and more storied collegiate career, yet he got shredded when he went to the pros, too. And now that he's there ... yep, the hits keep on coming.

I know, it happens; live with it. And Tebow will. He has no choice. As I said, I don't know that he makes it in the NFL, but I do know he's doing what he can to maximize his chances --- and I'm all for that.

No, he doesn't have that consistency to his passing game, and, yes, critics are right to dissect his flaws. But turn down the volume, please, and let the poor guy develop. The lockout undoubtedly hurt Tebow, who needs instructors like Elway to put him together again, but there's no use complaining now.

There's just practice. And practice. And more practice.

"I can't listen to what people say," he said. "In my ninth-grade year in high-school, they said I could never play quarterback. So they moved me to linebacker and tight end my freshman year.

"The coach said, 'Hey, you're never going to play quarterback here.' And that was my dream. If I got discouraged then I would never have made it to Nease High School, never made it to Florida and never made it to here. So I'm not going to worry about what people say; I'm going to worry about what I can control.

"Every day I'm going to come out here and bust my butt and work as hard as I can, and, at the end of the day, no matter what happens, I'm going to have zero regrets because I will have done everything I possibly can to accomplish my dream."

Sounds like a plan. Here's hoping it works.

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