CARLSBAD, Calif. -- If Tim Tebow is wearing any sort of chip on his shoulder, he does an excellent job of hiding it.
Tebow has been all smiles during the NFL Rookie Symposium this week. He isn't showing an ounce of resentment toward the many critics who insisted before last April's draft that the former University of Florida star couldn't succeed as a quarterback in the league -- or who called the Denver Broncos crazy for making him a first-round pick.
But don't mistake Tebow's pleasant demeanor for a lack of fire. His focus through the offseason has been to do everything possible to allow himself to reward Broncos coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders for their decision to select him much higher than anticipated. When the time comes for him to take the field as a quarterback (not a tight end or a running back or some other position that the skeptics said he would be more qualified to play), Tebow intends to deliver.
He'll take the same mission into training camp late next month.
"I definitely take pride in the coaches picking me and take pride in the fact that I want to prove them right," Tebow said. "That'll be a goal of mine in playing in the National Football League -- to prove coach McDaniels right and to prove Brian Xanders right and to prove the people that supported me right.
"That's something that I'll take pride in trying to do."
Tebow continues to work diligently on his throwing mechanics. Since playing his final college game earlier this year, he has been reconstructing his passing style to better fit the NFL.
Tebow has looked to rid himself of the long, looping, awkward delivery that many talent evaluators claimed would make it too easy for NFL defenders to get in front of his passes. His detractors insisted he would never be able to permanently alter something he has done for the majority of his football life. When the heat is on, they say, he'll resort to his default settings.
However, through the instruction he has received from McDaniels and the Broncos' other coaches during offseason workouts, Tebow has felt increasingly comfortable with doing things that are better suited to the NFL.
"I definitely feel there is a comfort zone with it, but there are still things that we're working on," he said. "Not necessarily as much with my throwing motion. It's more with my feet, my body, right (non-throwing) arm, other things like that that we're working on -- the drops, play-action fakes, different things that I'm getting used to. So we're still working on a lot of fundamentals.
"It's getting there. The more reps I get, the more understanding of the offense, the more comfortable everything else gets, too. Because it's all just a reaction-speed thing."
Tebow does find himself functioning differently when he practices by himself than he does with teammates. When he is alone, he does more thinking than reacting. In team drills, the opposite is true.
"I still have the thought process, not necessarily in team period where we're competing, but more in warmups and drops," Tebow said. "In doing different individual stuff, I'll focus on my fundamentals a lot. When we get into team stuff, then it's just play."
At the very least, the Broncos figure to take advantage of the exceptional running ability and athleticism that served Tebow so well with the Gators in Wildcat formations and other special situations. But how realistic does he think it is to beat out Orton and/or Brady for the starting job?
"I don't even think about it like that," Tebow said. "I think about every day I have to get better, and if I do that, then I'll be satisfied with myself and going in and getting better every day. Because that's all that I can control and that's what I'm going to worry about."
Questions, anyone? Anyone?
You would think that at least one of the 252 rookies here would have something to ask the commissioner of the NFL.
But when Roger Goodell began a question-and-answer period during his address on the first night of the Rookie Symposium, not a single hand went up.
It was remarkable, considering the league's uncertain labor future. Even if it isn't so unusual for an audience of young men to choose silence over speaking up in front of 251 of their peers, it seemed reasonable to expect that someone would be curious about what the man in charge of their league had to say about what is (or isn't) going on at the negotiating table.
After all, with the current collective bargaining agreement due to expire after the 2010 season and little progress in talks between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, there is a real possibility these players will see their pro careers come to a screeching halt after only one year.
Of course, some of them will have another chance to quiz Goodell this summer when the commissioner tours training camps in the Madden Cruiser. Former NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden is a special adviser to Goodell and is bringing his famous bus out of the garage to accompany the commissioner as he drops by camps to interact with players, coaches, and fans.
The labor situation undoubtedly will be a topic of conversation, although Goodell is careful to point out that he has no intention of allowing any contact he has with players to interfere with the negotiations that are between representatives for owners and players.
"I think, from a broader standpoint, you want to try to get them to make sure that they're focused on this and understand how important it is to them and how important it is to the game," Goodell said.
Tale of two receivers
Could it mean that Nelson is destined for a more productive season than Britt? Don't count on it.
Britt led the Titans with 701 receiving yards last season. Provided he can rebound from his offseason struggles, he'll have the opportunity to again be a major force in their passing game, especially with the uncertainty stemming from the fierce contract dispute that running back Chris Johnson is having with the team.
The situation is different with Nelson. He had an impressive offseason last year but followed it by catching 22 passes -- 11 fewer than in his rookie season in 2008. Unfortunately for Nelson, whatever spectacular work he manages to do from March through August is easily forgotten when the season begins and quarterback Aaron Rodgers is looking at a group of pass-catchers that includes Pro Bowler Donald Driver, Pro Bowl alternate Greg Jennings, and emerging tight end Jermichael Finley. On top of that, Nelson splits time in the slot with another talented receiver, James Jones.
Britt acknowledged to the Tennessean that he has to "get better" and plans on doing so between now and the start of training camp. "Even though everyone is going to be on vacation, this has to be my grinding time," he said. "I want to be the guy everyone can count on.''
On the other hand, Robinson couldn't gush enough about Nelson's offseason to the Press-Gazette, saying, "He's feeling so comfortable out there that he's making a ton of plays."