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The Early Lead
Posted at 10:35 AM ET, 11/29/2011

Kurt Warner says Tim Tebow should tone down religious rhetoric


Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow prays with members of both teams after their overtime win against the San Diego Chargers. (Lenny Ignelzi - AP)
Based on their style of play alone, Kurt Warner and Tim Tebow are miles apart.

Warner was the pocket passer with the big arm who ran the “Greatest Show on Turf” and averaged 33 pass attempts in 116 career starts. Tebow is the tight end playing quarterback, running the option and completing only 45.5 percent of his 20 pass attempts per game.

But when it comes to personality and individual values, Warner and Tebow are two peas in a pod.

Which is why Warner’s recent comments about Tebow’s outward religious expression are particularly interesting.

In an interview with the Arizona Republic, Warner — a devout Christian himself — suggested Tebow should tone things down a bit.

“You can't help but cheer for a guy like that," former NFL star Kurt Warner said. "But I'd tell him, 'Put down the boldness in regards to the words, and keep living the way you're living. Let your teammates do the talking for you. Let them cheer on your testimony.'
“I know what he's going through, and I know what he wants to accomplish, but I don't want anybody to become calloused toward Tim because they don't understand him, or are not fully aware of who he is. And you're starting to see that a little bit.”

As Republic columnist Dan Bickley points out, Warner “has already lived this story. He’s had coaches who felt religion was cutting into football time, telling Warner he spent too much time with the Bible. He saw how some fans were offended by the frequent shout-outs to Jesus, that Warner somehow was suggesting that God was a football fan, caring more about an NFL quarterback than, say, “a tsunami victim.”

You see it nearly every Sunday — and during the week throughout the world of sports. The first words out of an athlete’s mouth following a victory are frequently, “I just want to thank God for....”

Ray Lewis post-game interviews sometimes sound more like sermons than sports commentary. Players from two opposing teams often gather at midfield for a post-game prayer. And now, every Sunday, cameras follow Tebow every time he “Tebows”.

But Warner’s advice to Tebow is to limit that outward expression of religion on the field to avoid alienating coaches, players and fans and instead the right time to share his message.

“There’s almost a faith cliche, where (athletes) come out and say, ‘I want to thank my Lord and savior,’ Warner told the Republic. “As soon as you say that, the guard goes up, the walls go up, and I came to realize you have to be more strategic.
“The greatest impact you can have on people is never what you say, but how you live.... You set the standard with your actions. The words can come after.”

What do you think of Warner’s suggestions? Should Tebow tone down the religion on Sunday afternoons? Or should he feel free to express his conviction whenever it suits him? Does he run the risk of becoming an even more polarizing figure?

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On Leadership: Putting faith in Tim Tebow

Q&A: Why does Tebow grab so much attention? How far can he go?

By  |  10:35 AM ET, 11/29/2011

 
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