ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – This is a story about a Broncos quarterback. But it’s about the one you don’t know unless you’re a fan of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the one with neither an NFL pass nor even a draft pedigree.
Even though he’s thrown hundreds of passes during and after training-camp practices in the past month, rookie quarterback Adam Weber remains the Broncos’ most unknown commodity.
Is Weber worth stashing on the practice squad? Will he be an undrafted find that John Fox will eventually feel comfortable starting? If the answer to both is already “Yes,” then sending him into action at Arizona for anything beyond a courtesy bow could complicate matters by exposing him to the rest of the league.
“You just can’t worry about that stuff,” Weber said Monday. “My whole focus is continuing to get better every day and hopefully getting a chance to go out there and play and show these coaches and everybody that I can perform. I only try to focus on what I can do, and if I don’t get out there (and) I don’t get playing time, I try not to worry about that.”
That being said, Weber admits he’ll make some adjustment to his game preparation in the next two days.
“I probably will spend more time watching tape and just take things to the next level a little bit, prepare like I’m the starter, but I’ve been really trying to do it this whole time,” he said. ”
Weber has been clearly the fourth-teamer on the practice field during training camp, although his name created a buzz last week when Yahoo! reporter Michael Silver cited an anonymous source who said Weber was the third-best quarterback on the team, ahead of Tim Tebow.
The subsequent debate among fans and media left Weber bemused.
“It seemed fitting with how everything was going,” he said in a distinct, clipped Minnesota accent. ”People are just kind of hungry for something. But that’s the beautiful thing about football: it has a way of working itself out. The guys who can play will play; the guys who won’t will be weeded out.
I think there’s a lot of hype, but the three guys ahead of me (Tebow, Brady Quinn and Kyle Orton) are great quarterbacks and I’m still learning a lot from them, and I just feel very lucky that I can call them teammates.”
But with Orton and Quinn each only under contract for the coming season, some degree of change to the Broncos’ quarterback complement seems likely. If Weber earns a practice-squad spot, he puts himself in position to jockey for a longer-term developmental role that could keep him in the team’s sphere for years to come.
“My ultimate goal is to be a starting quarterback, but you’ve got to take small steps to get there, and if that’s practice squad, then so be it. I don’t mind putting in my time,” Weber said.
If that proves to be the case, it would seem that Denver is an ideal spot where Weber can properly develop.
Fox, for what it’s worth, has never considered draft-placement as the be-all, end-all of quarterback evaluation. In Carolina, he started Jake Delhomme for most of seven seasons; after Delhomme was done, he turned over the reins to Matt Moore, who flourished in a late-season 2009 cameo before coming undone along with the entire Panthers team in 2010.
Neither Delhomme nor Moore were drafted. Both spent time in other camps before joining ranks with Carolina and neither were installed as season-opening starters until at least three years into their NFL careers, but their backgrounds illustrates the ability of Fox and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy — his long-time quarterbacks and passing-game coach with the Panthers — to look beyond where a quarterback enters the league.
“It’s all about just having the opportunity and talking with Coach (Adam) Gase, the quarterback coach, and Coach McCoy. They felt that I would fit in this system,” Weber said.
“They didn’t make any promises and I appreciated that. They said, ‘We think you’ll fit in here, but whatever happens is up to you,’ and that’s what I appreciated.
“They’ll give me an opportunity, but it’s what you do with it, and I think so far I’ve shown some good things but I’m still making some mistakes out there, still learning. But hopefully I can go out there and perform on Thursday.”
If Weber gets that chance in Arizona on Thursday night and succeeds, the unknown quarterback might be a known commodity by Friday morning. Therein lies the Broncos’ conundrum.