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Teams, fans flock to see Tebow work out; QB mulls draft invite

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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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 him.

The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner was the star attraction at the University of Florida's pro day Wednesday, receiving rave reviews from NFL scouts, coaches and general managers after he unveiled his new, compact throwing motion.

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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 who was confined to a wheelchair.

Whether or not Tebow's performance influenced teams to draft him in the first round, he has been extended an invitation to attend the NFL Draft in New York. Neither Tebow nor his agent, Jimmy Sexton, has accepted as of Wednesday, according to NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt, who is responsible for extending the invitations.

"I had an hour conversation with (Tebow) a week ago Sunday; he was just finishing up a game of basketball," Brandt said. "I asked him, 'What would you think if we invited you to the draft? Would you go?' He said that he has a tight-knit family and that he'd talk it over with them."

Brandt said he also talked with Sexton and was expecting an answer last weekend but hasn't heard back.

About 75 NFL scouts, coaches and executives showed up Wednesday to see Tebow throw in his first open workout since the Senior Bowl. Among those in attendance: Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney and coach John Fox; Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren, GM Tom Heckert and coach Eric Mangini; Pittsburgh Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin; New York Giants GM Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin; Jacksonville Jaguars GM Gene Smith and offensive line coach Andy Heck; Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris; and Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson.

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"He had a very, very good workout," 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 also showed up despite cool temperatures and light rain. They loudly cheered 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," 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 other Florida players worked out before Tebow. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (shoulder), kick returner Brandon James (ankle) and linebacker Ryan Stamper (back) sat out because of injuries.

Haden and Dunlap improved their 40-yard dash times from the NFL Scouting 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 a long, looping release that had experts cringing and analysts calling for him to move to tight end or H-back.

Tebow worked with longtime NFL assistant Zeke Bratkowski, former coach Sam Wyche and ex-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."

The NFL personnel on hand seemed to take notice.

"I know he's been working at it, and if anybody can do it, it would be him," said Smith, the Jaguars GM who has been urged by his Florida fan base -- to a degree -- to select the home-state quarterback. "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 to everybody he's certainly capable of competing at our level."

Added Morris: "He didn't miss many throws. 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."

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.

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"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 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 that Tebow even needed to tweak anything.

"I think there are still some questions about that," Holmgren said. "I don't think everybody in the room thinks he needs to change dramatically, so we'll see where it goes."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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