DENVER (CBS4) – While Tim Tebow has not put on a Broncos jersey in two seasons, it didn’t stop the media this week from questioning current Broncos players about the young quarterback’s sudden signing with the New England Patriots. The surprise move came less than two weeks after members of Tebow’s camp reportedly claimed the unemployed quarterback’s NFL career was likely over.
Tebow played 23 games in Denver, with 17 TDs and 9 INTs, along with 12 rushing TDs. In 2011, the quarterback led the Broncos on an improbable run to the playoffs. Tebow quarterbacked a six game winning streak in the middle of the season, which put Denver into a position to earn a playoff spot. After clinching the division in week 17, the Broncos hosted the Steelers in the Wild Card Round. Led by Tebow’s career-high 316 passing yards and three total touchdowns, the Broncos won in overtime.
When speaking about the former Denver quarterback, the Broncos Head Coach John Fox had only positive comments.
“He did a tremendous job for the Broncos, for me as the head coach and our whole coaching staff and his teammates,” he said. Fox coached Tebow during the incredible 2011 run to the playoffs, and had a front row view of all of Tebow’s magic during that season.
Cornerback Champ Bailey showed a little more emotion towards his former teammate.
“I’m just happy for him that he got on a team, and he can go out there and do what he can to make the team,” Bailey said. “He’s a classy guy. He’s hardworking, and he’s going to do everything you ask him to do. That’s really all you can ask from a young player.” Bailey is coming off a Pro Bowl season, the 12th of his career. When asked how the Patriots would use Tebow, the cornerback refused to take the bait. “I’m worried about how we’re going to use the guys we’ve got. I’m not really concerned with how they’re going to use him.”
One player that knows Tebow more than most is Eric Decker, who entered the league with Denver in the same draft class as the quarterback. “From my experience with him he was a good guy, a hard worker and just a good teammate. That’s all you can ask for in the locker room: a guy that will bust his butt on the field and in the weight room and is going to be respectful amongst everybody,” Decker said. The 4th year wide receiver started his career off by being on the receiving end of Tebow’s passes. In his second season, Decker caught 44 passes for 8 TDs and 612 yards. “I’m happy for him; he’s an unbelievable competitor and a good teammate and I’m exciting to see what he can do in New England.”
Denver has a lot to look forward to this season. After starting the season 2-3, the Broncos won 11 straight to end the season, earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC. However, the Broncos saw their season get cut short after being defeated in double overtime in the Divisional Playoffs, losing to the Baltimore Ravens. With the success the Broncos saw last season, Denver is thinking big for this year. “I think every year your expectations are to win the Super Bowl or it’s a bust—that’s why you play the game. But this year we feel confident about who we are as a team—the identity that we have, the guys that we have I think we’re a very deep team,” Decker said.
Part of the depth Decker is referring to comes from the big offseason signing of WR Wes Welker to a 2 year, $12 million contract. Welker turned down more money from the Patriots to join Denver, New England’s biggest competition.
“Wes brings, definitely a dynamic that’s huge for us. He’s a guy that’s had a lot of success over the course of his career. He catches a lot of balls and throws a lot of things inside that I think we can utilize…” said Decker.
Another Bronco that is certainly happy about the Welker signing is Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning is coming off one of his best seasons ever, finishing with 4,659 yards, 37 TDs, only 11 INTs and a passer rating of 105.8. With the addition of Welker to a wide receiver corps that already featured Decker and Pro Bowl receiver Demaryius Thomas, this group could possibly be the most talented group of receivers Manning has ever played with (maybe even better than the Harrison/Wayne/Stokley trio he played with in Indy).
“That’s the key, you’ve got to be able to take it to the field, that’s when it really counts. But he’s got an excellent work ethic, which as a quarterback, I certainly have appreciation for that,” Manning said. “Guys that are talented like he is…you can see, in a short period of time, why he’s been so successful in his career. His ability to get open, his knowledge of coverages. You can see that he and [QB] Tom Brady were really on the same page because of Wes’s knowledge of defenses.”
With the release of veteran RB Willis McGahee, the Broncos have put a lot of pressure on their young running backs, second-year pro Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball. It’s too early in the offseason to tell which will be the starting running back, but Ball has taken some steps in the right direction.
“I think he really has a good work ethic in a short period of time. I think he really wants to be a good player,” Manning said about the rookie running back. “You can tell that if he makes a mistake, he really works hard at correcting it and not trying to make that mistake twice, so those are all things that you like to see out of young player. It’s still early.”
Now that McGahee is gone, Ball’s chances of starting Week 1 are a lot higher. However, the young back knows that nothing will be handed to him, and that he is going to have to earn the starting role.
“Honestly, right now we all want to start and we all want to play. It’s a healthy competition for sure because off the field we’re all good buddies and friends but on the field it’s just, trying to fight for that the position.”
Ball is making a lot of progress, narrowing down his mistakes after each practice. He will have to keep it up if he wants to be the starting back when the Super Bowl Champion Ravens come to Denver to open up the 2013 NFL season.
The Broncos will look to build off of last season’s success. While it is still early in the offseason, the Broncos have already set their goal for this year: Super Bowl. But with Manning at the helm, it is no surprise that Denver is taking it one step at a time.
“That’s certainly every team’s goal at this point. But there’s a long way before you get to that point in February. We have a second practice this afternoon and we have training camp, we’ve got week one. I know it’s a boring, old clichéd answer, but it’s about putting the work in to achieve that goal and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Manning and the rest of the Broncos will put in the necessary work to achieve success this season. If Manning performs like he did last season, then Denver fans are in for a very exciting season.