Tim Tebow holds his first news conference with the New York Jets, Monday in Florham Park, N.J.
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Tim Tebow got his first New York close-up Monday.
Speaking at news conference in the Jets field house, because the media crush was so great the session couldn’t be held in the team’s normal press room, the headline-grabbing New York backup QB went out of his way to play down any conflict between himself and starter Mark Sanchez.
“Me and Mark have a great relationship,” Tebow said. “We’ve been friends past three years and have already texted back and forth. We are going to have a great working relationship and I think we’ll have a lot of fun together.”
Acquired last Wednesday from Denver, the exciting but flawed quarterback is coming off a season of incredible comebacks with the Broncos. The Jets are hoping he has more surprises left in him.
Tebow’s new club threw him a quick challenge on Monday, sending him out alone to take questions at what was probably the biggest news conference ever for a second-string NFL player. Tebow stayed composed, speaking in an upbeat tone for more than half an hour.
Coach Rex Ryan, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and owner Woody Johnson were not in the building. They were down at the NFL meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., far away from the wild scene at the team’s headquarters.
While Ryan and Tannenbaum insist Sanchez is entrenched as the first-string quarterback, Tebow will also see plenty of time on the field and certainly much more of the spotlight.
Ryan suggested on Sunday that Tebow could be used at a position other than quarterback. He kept referring to Tebow as a “football player,” his ability not limited to quarterback.
“I don’t see Tim just holding a clipboard,” Ryan told a group of reporters while in Florida for a meeting of NFL team owners. “He’s going to be playing for us. There is no doubt.”
Ryan added: “There won’t be a better wildcat quarterback in the game. Is that his only role? I don’t believe that. We’ll see.”
Tebow said first and foremost he’s a quarterback, and that’s his hope and dream, but “however I can help the team, I am open to it.”
The newest Jet has already helped his team get some attention. While the club claims the trade for Tebow was a football-related move, it was also marketing gold as the polarizing QB has occupied the back — and, in some cases, the front — pages of the New York-area tabloids. And that’s just weeks after the Giants won their second Super Bowl in four years.
Legions of fans have been snatching up Tebow’s green and white No. 15 jersey. The famed Carnegie Deli in Manhattan already has a sandwich named after him, and Jockey has a digital billboard ad outside the Lincoln Tunnel — on the New Jersey side — with the underwear company saying it supports “Tebow & New York.”
It’s been a whirlwind of a few weeks for Tebow, who just last month was declared Denver’s starting quarterback going into this summer by John Elway. Not long after that, Peyton Manning was suddenly in town and Tebow was told he could get traded.
So much for “Timsanity” in Denver. Well, it has hit Broadway in full force, making “Linsanity” and the New York Knicks’ sensational Jeremy Lin seem like a distant memory.
Manning was introduced as the Broncos’ newest quarterback last Tuesday, and just over 24 hours later, Tebow was on the move, surprisingly headed to New York.
And then, he wasn’t.
A snag in the deal held things up between the Jets and Broncos, the delay centered on a salary advance due Tebow. Jacksonville, once considered one of the favorites to land their hometown star, jumped back in the hunt. But eight hours later, the Jets finally completed the trade, agreeing to pay half of the $5 million Denver owed Tebow. There was yet one more delay before the trade became official, as a technicality required Tebow to sign a rewritten contract which kept him on the Broncos’ salary cap until Saturday afternoon.
But now Tebow is here, a member of the Jets. And they intend to make things work with him and Sanchez, who was given a contract extension that included $20.5 million guaranteed less than two weeks ago. He hasn’t commented publicly on the deal yet, but training camp up in quaint Cortland, N.Y., might be a pretty hot spot — especially if Sanchez struggles and restless fans push for more Tebow, creating a quarterback controversy that could last all season.
Jets fans have been decidedly mixed on the trade, with many wondering why the team would add a monster distraction to a locker room that had serious issues last season and was partly to blame for an 8-8 finish. Sanchez’s leadership and confidence were questioned by some players, speaking anonymously in newspapers reports, and the addition of Tebow could cut into the starting quarterback’s ability to regain the room.
Joe Namath ripped the trade, calling it “a publicity stunt,” and cornerback Antonio Cromartie wondered on Twitter why the Jets would even need a guy like Tebow. He later reversed course, saying he supported Tebow and the team, but there have been plenty of other critics who have made it clear that they think the Jets made the wrong move.
While Tebow took Denver from 1-4 to AFC West champions last season, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner hit fewer than 50 percent of his passes and often seemed more comfortable running than passing. Throw in Tebow’s public displays of faith — he is a devout Christian — and he quickly has become a player who triggers a strong reaction from fans.
But whether anyone likes it or not, Tebow is part the New York sports scene. Now the Jets must figure out how to make it a winning addition.