Tebow stays level-headed under major spotlight

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Tebow stays level-headed under major spotlight

FOXBORO -- Tim Tebow isn't changing for anybody.

Entering Sunday's game against the Patriots, opinions -- positive and negative -- about the way the Denver Broncos quarterback carries himself and his religion have been heard from just about anyone who has knowledge of the NFL.

Even those who aren't fans of the sport have weighed in. So his impact has been made.

But the bigger story may be the way that Tebow has handled all of the criticism.

"It says a lot about him," said Broncos coach John Fox in Wednesday's conference call. "The criticism all hasn't been good, that's for sure. And I think he's handled it as well as anybody I've ever been around."

From his publicly displayed religious beliefs, to his quarterbacking style, Fox is right. Not much of it has been good. But Tebow finds a way to ignore most of the noise, mainly because it's out of his control.

"I've honestly done my best to try to just stay clear of it, and not pay too much attention, and not listen to too much of it," said Tebow on Wednesday. "It's obviously hard. It's hard to get that far away from it. But something I learned when I was pretty young at Florida, was not to worry about what I can't control. And that's something that I can't control.

"So I think my biggest focus is every day, trying to be the best teammate, trying to honor the Lord with how I play and how I live, and trying to work to be a better quarterback, a better teammate, be focused, and have a great attitude. That's really been my outlook on everything, and not necessarily what people are saying about me. And I thank the Lord that I don't have to live the roller coaster that other people say about my life."

So as critics speak about his faith, Tebow uses that faith to block out the naysayers. But when asked if his faith has gotten stronger, in the face of the largest amount of adversity he's ever faced in the game of football, Tebow admitted that it was the first time that question had been asked.

"I'm not sure," said Tebow. "I hope so. I pray that it is. Because I think that whatever you're going through in your life, you continue to grow as a person in your faith, and for me as a Christian, trying to grow closer to the Lord, and continuing to try to strengthen my faith. And one way you definitely strengthen your faith is through obstacles, through adversity, and there's definitely been some of that. So that definitely strengthens your faith.

"And then also something that strengthens your faith is sometimes when you have praise or things go good, how you handle it. And I think for me, one of my biggest prayers is, win or lose, good or bad, I'm the same guy. I honor the Lord either way. I treat people the exact same. And I'm not changing, no matter what happens. I think that's one of my biggest prayers."

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Four-player draft class an indication of Patriots confidence in roster

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Four-player draft class an indication of Patriots confidence in roster

FOXBORO -- The Patriots had only 50 to 75 players on their draft board. From that group they took only four this weekend: Youngstown State edge defender Derek Rivers, Troy tackle Antonio Garcia, Arkansas defensive end Deatrich Wise and UCLA tackle Conor McDermott. 

What are we to gather from that? Does that miniscule class -- the smallest in team history -- mean this was a particularly shallow pool of talent?

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio seemed to indicate otherwise about a week before the draft during a press conference.

"Look, there's good football players top to bottom, I would say, across positions," he said."Our job is to find the ones that fit for us. The reality is, look, there are some players that fit. There’s some players that don’t. In the end, we end up with 50 to 75 players that we would draft from top to bottom. That’s a small number, but that’s where we end up."

That explanation seemed to be a sign that maybe Caserio, Bill Belichick and their staff felt as though there weren't many players in this class who could compete for spots on what was was a talent-laden roster well ahead of draft weekend. There were good players scattered throughout the class, as Caserio said, but maybe only 50 to 75 were good enough to challenge for jobs in New England.  

Boston Sports Tonight's Michael Holley -- whose book War Room followed closely the draft strategies of the Patriots, Chiefs and Falcons in 2011 -- said something interesting on CSN two weeks ago once Caserio let it be known that the Patriots draft board was looking relatively small. Holley believed the number of names on the draft board was a sign that the Patriots felt very good about their team before they were even on the clock to make a pick.

Because the Patriots will put names of their own players on their draft board, comparing them to potential draftees who might compete with them at a certain position, pegging only a limited number of players as "draftable" may mean that many of the veteran names already on the roster were unlikely to be leapfrogged by rookies.

It was an interesting point. In retrospect, it highlights the fact that this draft probably wasn't devoid of talent. But it may have been short on talent that could "fit" in New England -- or realistically make the 2017 Patriots. 

One area in the draft where the Patriots seemed to believe in its depth? Perhaps the team's most obvious area of need: Edge defender. 

The Patriots had just three established defensive ends on the roster going into the draft in Rob Ninkovich, Trey Flowers and Kony Ealy. Ninkovich, 33, is going into a contract season. Ealy is in the final year of his rookie deal and has never played a snap in New England. 

The Patriots had several options on the edge with their first pick at No. 72 overall. Kansas State's Jordan Willis, Texas A&M's Daeshon Hall, Alabama's Tim Williams, Auburn's Carl Lawson and Ohio's Tarell Basham were all on the board . . . yet they traded back. 

As ESPN's Mike Reiss suggested Sunday, that deal could have been the result of a player the Patriots liked -- like defensive end Dawuane Smoot of Illinois -- coming come off the board just before No. 72. Maybe they wanted to regroup and trade back to buy themselves time to make a choice they felt confident in.

But it also could have been a case where they had a handful of edge players on their board graded similarly, and they wanted to pick up some draft capital by moving down the board without sacrificing much in the way of talent. 

They ended up with Rivers, who some believe has the ability to be a top-end pass-rusher and would have been taken much higher had he played for a program in a power-five conference. Then they hung tight at No. 131 in the fourth round and found another added layer of depth for the edge in Wise, who in some ways looks like Chandler Jones when Jones was a rookie in 2012.

Whether or not the they thought of this year's draft as "deep" throughout? That's debatable. That they liked the look of their roster going into the weekend before making a pick is not.