ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –As the Broncos emerged for the second half last Sunday, Tim Tebow stood on the sideline, helmet strapped to his head.
This was utterly predictable; Tebow usually wore his helmet on the sideline this year, as though he’s in perpetual expectation that he’ll enter on the game’s next play — even if the Broncos are on defense or preparing to block a field goal.
But as the second half began, offensive starters walked up to Tebow. One by one, they shared a few words while Kyle Orton stood a few yards away, his mop of hair covered by a ballcap.
The sign was clear; Tebow’s moment was near.
Tight end Daniel Fells was one of the players to share a few words with Tebow. Fells isn’t exactly a grizzled veteran; this is only his fourth season in the NFL. Yet he exudes a calm professionalism and pragmatic sensibility that seems more suited to a 35-year-old, 12-year veteran than someone who ought to have more playing days in front of him than behind.
Fells’s advice to Tebow, as he recalled it Tuesday, was simple.
“I was just telling him to go out there and be himself,” Fells said. “It’s one of those things, there’s a lot of hype behind it and a lot of things going on outside our locker room.
“I just wanted him to know, ‘Do everything that you know you can do. Don’t play outside of yourself. Just be you.’”
That’s unlike anything some veterans have ever seen in the pros.
“Tim has a presence about him that I’ve never been around before, in terms of a guy in the locker room,” said cornerback Andre’ Goodman. “I’ve played with some Hall of Fame players before that weren’t close to the aura that this guy has.
“I can’t explain (it). It’s not for me to explain.”
Fells said it goes beyond words.
“With Tim, a look goes a long way,” he said. “You see that look in his eyes and you can tell, ‘OK, let’s get it.’”
Good advice and support from teammates is vital if Tebow is to have any chance of turning this mid-season promotion into a long-term gig. Since the 2012 draft oozes with top quarterback prospects, Tebow likely has only the next 11 games to demonstrate his value to the organization.
Succeed, and the Broncos can address other needs. Fall short, and the Broncos will likely have to capitalize on the depth of quarterback talent. In other recent years, the position is at such a premium that clubs reach with first-round picks for second- or third-round talent. The 2012 draft will be an exception, creating better value, especially from the middle of the first round to the early picks of the second.
Tebow has a chance to change all that. If he plays out the season, he’ll face some demanding, aggressive defenses — the units of the Lions, Jets, Vikings and Patriots quickly grab your attention.
With each passing week, there’ll be more footage for defensive coordinators to scour, more opportunities for teams to discover tendencies for which they can plan.
As they move to defuse Tebow’s strengths; his countermoves will determine his future. His best chance, therefore, is for his play to create just one tendency: unpredictability.
It’s his best play, especially since even his receiving targets don’t quite know what will happen when snap hits his hands.
“It’s just going to be different every single time. Sometimes you scramble; sometimes he’ll give you a little juke and just throw it up,” Fells said. “You’ve just got to be ready at all times.”
Sort of like Tebow on the sideline this year, waiting a month for his full-time shot.