NFL: Tebow debuts new throwing motion for teams
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Tim Tebow’s latest visit to Florida Field looked like most of the others. He was cheered, revered and pulled in every direction.
This time, though, it wasn’t just screaming fans gushing over the former Heisman Trophy winner.
The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner was the star attraction at Florida’s pro day Wednesday, receiving rave reviews from NFL scouts, coaches and general managers after he unveiled his new, compact throwing motion.
The bulky left-hander threw dozens of passes to former teammates Riley Cooper, Aaron Hernandez and David Nelson during a 30-minute workout, spoke with several NFL executives and even found time to play catch with a kid confined to a wheelchair.
“He had a very, very good workout,” Carolina Panthers coach John Fox said. “He doesn’t lack in the work ethic department, so whatever needs to be done, he’ll do. I definitely saw some adjustment and I thought he executed very well.”
About 3,000 fans showed up despite cool temperatures and light rain. They cheered loudly as Tebow walked into The Swamp for the first time since his home finale in November, applauded every completion and groaned whenever a ball hit the ground — surely blaming the receiver.
“This is a little different,” Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren said. “I think if it had been a sunny day, we might have filled this place.”
Cornerback Joe Haden, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, linebacker Brandon Spikes, center Maurkice Pouncey, safety Major Wright and several others worked out before Tebow. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (shoulder), kick returner Brandon James (ankle) and linebacker Ryan Stamper (back) sat out with injuries.
Haden and Dunlap improved their 40-yard dash times from the NFL combine — both probably boosted their draft stock — but Spikes failed to break the 5-second mark on soggy grass.
Their performances, though, were clearly overshadowed by Tebow. He spent the last two months fine-tuning his new motion, which includes smaller strides, holding the ball higher and eliminating that long, looping release that had experts cringing and analysts calling for him to move to tight end or H-back.
He worked with longtime NFL assistant Zeke Bratkowski, former NFL coach Sam Wyche and former college/NFL assistant Marc Trestman.
“I made a lot of changes and improved on a lot of things,” Tebow said. “There’s still a lot of room for improvement, a lot of things that I think I can get better at and I’ll continue to work on it, continue to get better. But I think I made a lot of strides.”
About 75 NFL scouts, coaches and executives showed up to see Tebow throw. It was his first open workout since the Senior Bowl.
“I know he’s been working at it, and if anybody can do it, it would be him,” Jacksoville Jaguars general manager Gene Smith said. “He certainly has a will to prepare. People say there’s always exceptions to the rule. If there’s going to be one at the quarterback spot, it will be him in terms of going against everything everybody has said negative about him with the long release.
“He’s out to prove everybody he’s certainly capable of competing at our level.”
Maybe so, but there’s still plenty of debate surrounding Tebow’s draft stock. Some point to his drive, determination, winning record and other intangibles as reasons he should be a first-round pick. Others insist his passing skills are more in line with a mid-round selection.
“Clearly, he’s a special young man,” Holmgren said. “You can tell he’s trying to make adjustments to his motion. That seems to be what people are fired up about, and he’s working very hard to do that, and it showed today. I thought he had a pretty good workout.”
Holmgren called Tebow’s changes subtle differences and said the next step would be to prove that his mechanics hold up in games and under pressure.
“Those of us that know the position a little bit and watch the position and have coached the position, you saw it,” Holmgren said. “You saw he’s worked hard on changing some of his technique, and I root for him. He’s a wonderful young man. I pull for guys like that, and he’s going to make some team very happy.”
Still, Holmgren wasn’t sure Tebow even needed to tweak anything.
“I think there are still some questions about that,” he said. “I don’t think everybody in the room thinks he needs to change dramatically, so we’ll see where it goes.”
Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Raheem Morris also were in attendance. So was Minnesota Vikings vice president for player personnel Rick Spielman.
“He didn’t miss many throws,” Morris said. “He came out, did what he had to do. He’s a talented guy, he’s a popular guy, he’s a sharp guy, he’s a smart guy, he’s had success all his career and I’m sure nothing will be different when he goes to the next level.”