Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow was adamant in firing back at his detractors Thursday, saying criticism over his NFL potential was unwarranted and that none of the resulting distractions will be a deterrent.
In the face of perceived setbacks for a former first-round draft pick, Tebow stood steadfast during an interview with The Denver Post.
"I'm trying to insulate myself from what people in the media are saying, but I've seen some of it, and it hurts because it's coming from people who haven't seen me practice, haven't seen me play, haven't seen what I can do," Tebow told the newspaper. "I did an interview the other day with someone on the NFL Network who said last year I'd never play a down in the NFL. He was wrong.
"Others who say I won't make it are wrong. They don't know what I'm capable of and what's inside me. My family and my friends have been bothered by what's gone on, and I tell them to pay no attention to it. I'm relying as always on my faith."
It's been a rough week for Tebow.
ESPN NFL analyst Merril Hoge said on Twitter that "it's embarrassing to think the broncos could win with tebow."
Tebow was reminded of the NFL Network prediction that he'd never play a down as a pro. And he continued to practice with the reserves at training camp, despite starting the final three games for Denver last season.
But Tebow vowed to emerge a better quarterback.
"I'll always use the negativity as more motivation to work even harder and become even stronger," Tebow told The Denver Post Thursday. "I'll practice as good as I can, but I know that I play even better, with the qualities I have -- leadership, my ability to make something happen in games, winning.
"And I know there are a lot of people who believe in me as a player and a person, and I don't want to let them down."
On Wednesday, after taking to Twitter, Hoge offered a scathing on-air critique of Tebow's skill set and how it translates to the NFL.
"He is awful as far as accuracy goes and what's kind of even more disturbing, he's probably worse moving and running around with the football and throwing than he is from the pocket," Hoge said on ESPN's "SportsCenter."
"Can you get better there? A little bit. If everything is perfect, the pocket, your feet are good, all your fundamentals come into place, the coverage is what you want it, you can be successful. But that doesn't happen at the National Football League. Rarely does that happen."
Hoge also appeared Thursday on ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning," saying: "They think it's a personal attack. It's purely a football evaluation ... I never said he's a bad guy. In fact, I know he's a great guy. I've met him. It's a football evaluation based on over 25 years of studying this league, working in this league."
Hoge added that part of Tebow's issue is where he was drafted -- the first round.
"The skill set he possessed in college is not a first-round grade. No how. No way," Hoge said.
In speaking with the Denver newspaper, Tebow said the end of last season was uplifting as he finished atop the Broncos' depth chart before an offseason that saw coach Josh McDaniels fired and former Carolina Panthers coach John Fox hired.
"My dream, since I was a young boy, of being a starting quarterback in the NFL seemed to be coming true," Tebow said.
"Then, I felt like it was grabbed back away."
Tebow said he has struggled at times in camp but was confident of his overall performance.
"I didn't have a good day on the field (last) Saturday, but I think in the other practices I've thrown well and improved each day," he said.
Tebow said Friday he's been told to compete for the starting job. He says he wants to earn anything he gets.
Orton, the incumbent starter, has been taking all the first-team snaps in camp. Tebow had been taking most of the second-team snaps behind Orton, but the former Florida star rotated with Quinn on Thursday and Friday.
Saturday figures to be a showcase for all three quarterbacks, as the Broncos will scrimmage for the first time at Invesco Field at Mile High.
Orton was injured at the end of the season, and for three games, Tebow provided a sample of his competitive swagger and unmatched popularity. But lost in translation was that Orton, despite his team's struggle to win games, had been throwing the ball at a career clip. He finished with a 58.8 percent completion percentage in 13 games, throwing for 20 touchdowns and 3,653 yards to go with nine interceptions before sitting out December.
"Some of the changes that are being made are going to help us in the run game and protection-wise," Orton said Thursday. "And, like I said, I think we can throw the ball against anybody. We've got guys that can get open and get the ball to them. I think if we can improve in those areas, we're going to be a tough offense to stop."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.