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Thursday, April 28, 2011
John Elway supports Tim Tebow

By Ed Werder
ESPN

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway has been strangely vague regarding his opinion of Tim Tebow's potential as the team's starting quarterback. Until now.

During a half-hour conversation at the Broncos' facility the day before the NFL draft, Elway -- who as a rookie quarterback once mistakenly lined up behind the offensive guard to take a snap -- recognized the organization will need to be committed and patient for Tebow to succeed.

He's one of those guys who -- if he comes out and is the player we hope he can be -- then we're in pretty darn good shape. He's a great ambassador for us as a team.

-- John Elway on Tim Tebow

Elway, who won two Super Bowls and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004, said he scrutinized Tebow's three games last season as a starter with the Broncos and came away impressed with his unique mobility and intangible qualities. Elway recognizes Tebow must improve his accuracy.

"Let's put it this way, I'm his biggest fan," Elway said. "He's one of those guys who -- if he comes out and is the player we hope he can be -- then we're in pretty darn good shape. He's a great ambassador for us as a team. He realizes, and I've told him: The bottom line is, 'You can do all those things and make all those plays that a lot of guys can't do, and that's something you have that they don't -- but you have to realize for us to be champions, you have to be able to win it from the pocket and make all those throws from the pocket.' "

The labor dispute that threatens to wipe out the entire offseason and potentially delay the start of the regular season is a significant setback for Tebow. He is missing offseason repetitions with Denver teammates and coaches who might refine his throwing mechanics.

Although Tebow has worked out on his own, it's not the same as working with the Broncos' coaches. But that will change Friday, per the NFL's memo that players under contract can report to team facilities pending the league's request to a federal appeals court to issue a temporary stay on a lower court ruling lifting the lockout.

The Broncos informed players Thursday they can meet with new coach John Fox and his staff Friday and begin using the weight and meeting rooms. The Broncos plan to begin organized team activities next week. Tebow said he's traveling to Denver and expects to participate Friday.

Elway remains confident that Tebow eventually can be the kind of quarterback who is successful within the pocket. However, he's unsure when that transformation will be made.

"You're always projecting it, but I think he can eventually get there," Elway said. "I can't tell you a timeline. I don't know if it's going to be this fall or this time next year. But I think he's got the desire that eventually he's going to be very effective."

With the second pick in the first round of the draft Thursday, the Broncos selected Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller. That means Tebow won't be competing with another young up-and-comer.

"Those guys, obviously, there's holes in every young guy coming out," he said. "There's not an Andrew Luck, a [Matthew] Stafford, a [Sam] Bradford. Those guys are all very good quarterbacks in my mind, but there are holes in every one of them -- as there were in Tebow. I think where we are as an organization, we're going to go with Tim."

With that, while acknowledging there will be competition for the starting job, Elway seemed to hint that Tebow is Denver's likely starter this year -- unless the lockout eliminates virtually all of the preseason, in which case veteran Kyle Orton's experience might provide an advantage.

Elway said he's more convinced after preparing for his first draft that he's in the right position with the Broncos at this stage of his life.

"I've had a great life, no question, but I get tired of playing celebrity," he said. "There's no depth to playing celebrity. This has a lot of depth to it because of the responsibility I've been given, plus I get to compete. I like the week in and week out; the wins and losses.

"I get asked all the time, 'Why do you want to ruin your legacy?' Well, I didn't think my legacy was going to end at 38. People say, 'Why would you risk it?' And I said, 'Hell, why not?' It's not going to change how I played. No matter what happens in this position, I will still have been a great football player."

Although running an NFL team is uncommon for a former Hall of Fame quarterback with two Super Bowl rings, Elway believes he offers the Broncos a unique perspective on how to build a team from his 16 years as the greatest player in Broncos history.

He intends to be directly involved with the players, particularly Tebow and the other quarterbacks.

"I'm not going to get in the way of the coaches," he said. "I'm not going to be intrusive. But I believe I have the knowledge to help them, which I want to do."

Ed Werder covers the NFL for ESPN.