By Arnie Leshin
No doubt the ever anxious Tim Tebow will have a better chance of standing out when players start practicing in full pads next week.
Right now the former All-America, Heisman Trophy winner who had a few turns in the National Football League with the Denver Broncos and New York Jets, is one of the first to arrive at the Jacksonville Jaguars practice.
He jogs on to the field, stretches a little, catches footballs from a huge machine, then finds his usual spot in the team’s warm-up lines, where he’s waaaay in the back, just in front of a rookie.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Tebow has always been one of the more imposing guys on the field — big, strong and eager to run over anyone in his path.
But now he’s far from the spotlight, right where new head coach Urban Meyer wants his former Gator star to be at this time as he closes in on his 34th birthday.
“He’s one of 90 to make the squad,” says Meyer about his fourth or fifth-string tight end Tebow. “He’s only been playing the position five months ago, and is trying to return to the NFL after spending the previous five years in baseball with the New York Mets organization. Glad to have him.”
Signing for a one-year contract worth $920,000, the minimum for a player with three accrued NFL seasons. The low risk deal includes no guaranteed money, so Tebow would have to make the team to earn a dime. And that’s the uncertain part, for Jacksonville already has a trio of tight ends locked in to roster spots.
And fifth round draft pick Luke Farrell, who played for Meyer at Ohio State, might also be ahead of Tebow after playing tight end with the Buckeyes.
The Jags have offered little information about Tebow’s transition, partly because they don’t want the former star quarterback becoming a daily attraction. The rebuilding team didn’t make Tebow or any other tight ends available for media interviews.
It’s a physical position. It’s part offensive line and it’s just part wide receiver, so some of the staff isn’t even going to show up, although it’s a much-improved room from top to bottom.
Is Tebow included here, who knows, but to make the team, he might need to be more versatile than ever, a dependable backup tight end, a core special teams player, a wildcat option in short-yardage and goal- line situations, and maybe even an emergency QB.
No matter what he does, he’s sure to have some doubters. Some say it’s going to tick people off, that it’s going to affect locker room chemistry, and that not because there’s animosity towards Tebow, but towards the coverage he receives.
At this point, there’s also some question how such a polarizing figure who has already failed to stick as a pro quarterback and as an outfielder, fits into an NFL locker room where new teammates have publicly welcomed him.
The best thing to do is stay tuned into Tebow’s new adventure, whether he stays or goes close-by to his home in North Florida.