FOXBORO -- While fans and cognoscenti seem split on the merits of Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos quarterback, there is less vacillating among people who actually play the game.
Asked earlier this week what "jumps off the page" about Tebow, Vince Wilfork launched.
"What doesnt jump off the page?" Wilfork demanded. "Hes a tough, tough guy to prepare for."
Wilfork's been in the league since 2004. He went to the University of Miami. He's seen the best players in the world, the most athletic incarnations of quarterbacks in the league's history. His comments on Tebow resonate.
"You can speak all day about how tough he is and how elusive he is but it really doesnt matter until you face him," said Wilfork. "When you face him you really figure out this dude is like a running back. Hes a big dude, hes a strong guy. I knew we talked about it, but man I didnt realize. Just the physical-ness, his stature, hes just a big guy. Ive seen some big guys over the years but hes probably one of the biggest and one of the toughest and probably one of the strongest that Ive faced. Not taking any credit from anyone else but hes a special guy. We know that and Im pretty sure they know that."
His physical stature for the position is unique. So too is his style and running ability. His leadership skills are once-in-a-generation. Yet relative to other NFL quarterbacks, his passing production is horrific.
Still, the respect for him seems universal.
The media makes a big deal out of who he is. His teammates don't seem to begrudge that at all because of how he is.
I asked Broncos coach John Fox this week about how his teammates have responded to the attention lavished on a player who hasn't -- to borrow an NFL phrase -- peed a drop in the league.
"Thats a dynamic that really happens outside our building," said Fox. "You know I think Tim definitely has all the respect in the world from his teammates. Like you mentioned earlier, he doesnt seek it, you really dont have any control over it. Weve good guys in that locker room and theyve got great respect for him and hes got great respect for his teammates and we havent had any issues."
Before the Patriots played at Denver on December 18, I watched Tebow throw at least 200 balls before the game. He wasn't warming up. He was working to improve even as game time loomed. That effort is what can short-circuit any eye-rolling about him not deserving attention. That and the fact he doesn't court the attention.
I asked if he ever feels awkward around teammates because of the 24-7 Tebow coverage.
"I dont think so," he answered. "I think because for the most part its not like its something that you ask for. ... They know you care about them and thats what matters. You care about going out there and trying to get better every day and trying to be a great teammate and then I think the rest doesnt I dont think they see the rest. Hopefully they see you as a friend and as a teammate and the rest of it is something that we laugh at and sometimes they make fun of you for."
Nobody gets ribbed more than Tebow these days. Lampooned. Mocked even. But the manner in which he deals with criticism and cynicism takes the air out of the attacks.
He may not be a transcendent player. But he's a transcendent person and the way teammates and opponents respond to him is proof of that.