Tebow's passing up drills gets a pass from some — but not all

Baltimore Sun

- Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is reportedly opting out of participating in any of the physical drills at the NFL combine this week. The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback already said he wasn't going to throw for scouts, joining quarterbacks Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford, but now it seems he won't do anything - passing on running the 40-yard dash, the bench press, the vertical jump and shuttle drill - other than interview with teams in preparation for the NFL draft.

Tebow has a somewhat legitimate excuse for not throwing. He's reportedly revamping his entire throwing motion, a process that should take months, if not years. But his decision to not participate in any of the drills came as a bit of a surprise. It could be seen as a sign that he is committed to playing quarterback and only quarterback in the NFL, at least for now. Some general managers were hoping he might catch a few passes and run the 40-yard dash, simply to gauge how he might look as an H-back or a tight end.

Tebow remains one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft, and has been projected everywhere from the middle of the first round all the way into the third round.

He remains, however, a hot topic for the media and for NFL personnel. Will he be a Wildcat quarterback in the NFL? Will he move to another position? Will he be given a chance to fail or succeed at quarterback before he's asked to move? Can his awkward release even be fixed? Those questions were getting thrown around plenty Thursday inside Lucas Oil Stadium.

"I think his resume speaks for itself," said Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz, a Mount St. Joseph graduate. "There are not many guys who dominated college football the way he did. I think if you look at [ San Diego Chargers quarterback] Philip Rivers, a lot of people didn't think he could be successful because of his release. The same is true of [ Tennessee Titans quarterback] Kerry Collins. They've both been very good. So maybe a little too much is being made of that."

"You can't lose sight of his intangibles," 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan said. "I see no reason why he can't be successful. If you look at Philip Rivers, everyone made fun of his release and he's done pretty well."

Although NFL GMs were reluctant to criticize Tebow for his decision to skip workouts at the combine, it was clear it didn't thrill a few of them. Scott Pioli of the Kansas City Chiefs shrugged his shoulders and shook his head when asked what he thought about Tebow.

"If you're good, you're good," Pioli said. "I like to see guys who want to compete."

Does a decision to skip workouts at the combine ever factor in to the way a player gets evaluated?

"For me, it does," Pioli said. "I think for other teams, it doesn't. But for me, it does. I understand the reasons that some of the agents and some of the players feel that players shouldn't compete here, but to me, if you're a competitor, if you're good, then you're going to be good."

No tags for RavensAs expected, the Ravens declined to use the franchise tag on a player this year. They also decided not to use either of the transition tags available to teams. The deadline to declare whether they were going to use either of the tags was 4 p.m. Thursday.

The Ravens franchised linebacker-defensive end Terrell Suggs last year, meaning they had to pay him the average of the top five salaries at his position. They then signed him to a six-year, $62 million contract in the offseason. With the transition tag, teams must pay the average of the top 10 salaries at that position.

Focus on left tacklesMost of the focus at the NFL combine at the offensive line position this week has been on a trio of elite tackles: Trent Williams of Oklahoma, Russell Okung of Oklahoma State and Anthony Davis of Rutgers. Maryland's Bruce Campbell has also seen his stock rise in recent weeks as more teams fall in love with his athleticism.

The Ravens don't seem to need an immediate upgrade at offensive line, although Jared Gaither's status as a restricted free agent could change that if some team decided he was worth a big contract along with the draft picks they'd have to give up if they signed him. All of it seems unlikely because of his injury history and questions about his work ethic. But Gaither does have elite size and potential for growth, and stranger things have happened.

If the Ravens were looking to take on another prospect in the middle rounds and groom him the way they did Gaither - who was raw coming out of college, since he had barely played high school football - Jared Veldheer might be an interesting value pick. Veldheer, like Gaither, has prototypical NFL left tackle size, having measured in at the combine at 6 feet 9, 315 pounds.

But no one knows exactly what Veldheer's ceiling is because he played at tiny Hillsdale College in Michigan - where he was a Division II All-American - and never faced elite competition.

"It's kind of surreal to be in this position coming from Hillsdale," Veldheer said. "But once you start thinking about it, I've worked really hard to get here. Everyone says this whole process is supposed to stress you out and wear on you, but I'm loving every minute of it."

Veldheer, who grew up in Grand Rapids, said he ended up at Hillsdale, in part, because his high school football team ran the Wing-T offense, which didn't give him much of a showcase for his pass-blocking skills.

"All we did was down-block, every play," Veldheer said. "I went to some camps, but I guess the schools that were looking at me didn't see what they were looking for."

Veldheer has popped up on mock drafts as high as the second round, but most have him going between the third and fifth round. He improved his stock a bit in the Texas vs. The Nation game, where he held his own against Division I players and was one of the most impressive tackles.

"I was definitely nervous in the beginning, but after about five plays, everything slowed down and it felt just like football," Veldheer said.

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