ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Tim Tebow's battered ribs are casting doubt and raising concerns in Denver.
Will the rookie quarterback make his Broncos home debut Saturday night after missing two practices this week?
More importantly, must the former University of Florida star alter his physical style of play now that he's in the bigger, badder NFL?
Tebow was known for running the football at Florida, where he won two BCS national championships and a Heisman Trophy, and he never really had to slide or go out of bounds much in college, where at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, he was bigger and stronger than many of his pursuers.
However, Tebow is still adjusting to the faster pro game, and he absorbed some vicious hits during his NFL debut Sunday night at Cincinnati, where he was welcomed to the league by safety Jeromy Miles on a blitz the quatrerback never saw coming even though it wasn't on his blind side.
Tebow evidently suffered bruised ribs on the game's final play when Bengals linebacker Abdul Hodge blasted him on his left side as he scrambled into the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown and bowled over Kyries Hebert, leaving the safety woozy. After the game, which Cincinnati won 33-24, Tebow sported a large, nasty red scrape across the lower left side of his back.
Tebow practiced 48 hours later, but he didn't do wind sprints, and he left the field during warmups Wednesday. He didn't even come out of the building Thursday, much to the disappointment of the throngs of Tebowmaniacs attending the Broncos' final training-camp workout that was open to the public.
Tebow, who wasn't made available to reporters this week, said when camp started that he was eager for the hard hits, and McDaniels isn't rushing to change the rookie's running ways.
"Had he not tried to get it in on the last play of the game, I'm sure that would have been a bigger story," McDaniels said Thursday. "So, no. If it's the first quarter and you get a first down on the scramble, yeah, you try to preserve your body. I think that's the smartest thing to do. He hasn't been in that situation yet."
Some hits are unavoidable, others unnecessary, and Tebow certainly will be lectured about preserving his health. But McDaniels disputes the notion that Tebow shouldn't have gone all out for the end zone for a meaningless touchdown in a game that didn't really matter.
"To judge him on what happened the other night in terms of being reckless I would say is very unfair," McDaniels said. "What he did the other night I hope all of our guys would have done, no matter who it was. Yeah, it's part of his game. But I'm sure he'll learn either the easy way or the hard way that you want to stay in this league as long as you can, and we'll help him do that."
In an interview with The Associated Press later Thursday, McDaniels said Tebow's aggressive style is what gives him a chance to succeed in the NFL and he won't try to coach that out of him.
"I think that's part of his toughness," McDaniels said. "Do we expect him to try to take care of his body and try to protect himself if that's at all possible and it's not worth the risk? Yeah. But I think if there's certain situations like there was the other night where it's the last play of the game, I think that most quarterbacks would try to get themselves in the end zone.
"That's part of his style and that's part of what made him great in college, and it's probably what will make him a good player -- if that's what he becomes in this league."
Asked if he believed defenders might try to hit Tebow harder because of his celebrity status that's almost unheard of for a rookie and certainly unparalleled for a No. 3 quarterback, McDaniels had his doubts that tacklers would ratchet it up for anybody, much less Tebow.
"They should probably be careful if they do that. I think the other guy got knocked out," McDaniels said. "You know, he's a big guy. He's 245 pounds. He can take care of himself."
Asked about Tebow's status for Saturday night's game, McDaniels demurred.
"There's a chance that a lot of those guys that aren't out here won't play," McDaniels said. "We are just going to see in the next 24 to 36 hours how all of them respond to the treatment they are getting. ... We are not going to worry about trying to hurry anybody back for this game."
Before the extent of Tebow's injury was realized, McDaniels said he planned to play the rookie for most of the second half against the Lions. But Tebow might have to wait until the Aug. 29 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, when McDaniels planned to go with his starters, including Kyle Orton, most of the way and his primary backups, Brady Quinn among them, in the fourth quarter.
That means Tebow might not play again until the Sept. 2 preseason finale at Minnesota, denying Broncos fans a chance of seeing him in action at Invesco Field unless he earns playing time during the regular season.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press