Tim Tebow laughed a few times, smiled steadily and stayed polite and composed.
If being surrounded by dozens of cameras and scores of media people made him nervous, the New York Jets’ new backup quarterback didn’t show it.
He was cool and calm — exactly how he looked during those hair-raising comebacks last season with the Denver Broncos.
His message: I’m here to help, not to create another Jets controversy.
”It’s an honor for all of you to show up to hear me say a few words,” a grinning Tebow told a pack of more than 200 reporters.
Asked what he thought about the media crush, he said: ”I really don’t think it will be much of a distraction because, honestly, I will try not to pay too much attention to it.”
Good thing, because it will surely be around 24/7. Monday was only the beginning. Even though both he and Mark Sanchez, the starting quarterback, don’t want more drama.
Tebow spoke for more than 30 minutes at a news conference held in the team’s field house because the media turnout was so massive it couldn’t be accommodated in the normal press room. It was hardly a run-of-the-mill meet-and-greet, with the star of the show hardly a part-time player.
Cameras flashed, capturing every Tebow step, as he strolled onto the field and made his way to the podium for his big New York close-up. He appeared polished and unfazed handling a barrage of 31 questions, most of his answers measured and upbeat as he deftly handled the local media.
Tebow, who used the word ”excited” more than 40 times, refused to stir the volatile mix that is the Jets. He went out of his way to say he believes he and Sanchez can co-exist despite all the skeptics. And there are plenty.
”The exciting thing is me and Mark have a great relationship,” Tebow said. ”We have had a great relationship for the last three years, I think. We’ve been friends. We text back and forth. We talked already and we’re going to have a great working relationship. I think we’ll have a lot of fun together.”
The two do have a bit of shared history. Sanchez hosted Tebow on his recruiting trip to Southern California. Sanchez didn’t watch the big news conference because he was working out, but he also isn’t worried that Tebow could take his job at some point.
”We’re adding another player and were not replacing anybody,” Sanchez said. ”I mean, he’s here to help us and I’m confident in my abilities. I know the team feels the same way about me. They have belief in me.
”I’m not worried about losing my spot.”
Now, it’s up to the Jets to make sure it all works.
”There’s a lot of pros here,” Tebow said, ”and not a lot of cons.”
That’s what the Jets think, too.
After all, the quarterback has been marketing gold since they acquired him from Denver last Wednesday. His green-and-white No. 15 jerseys are flying off the racks and his arrival has put the Jets on tabloid covers for days.
Never mind that their stadium mates, the Giants, just won their second Super Bowl in four years. Or that Tebow, despite leading the Broncos to the AFC West title last season, completed fewer than half his passes and Denver wound up getting routed by the New England Patriots in the playoffs, 45-10.
For anyone who wondered why such a circus-sized event for a backup quarterback, Tebow had an answer: just following orders.
”I have bosses, too, and they wanted me to stand up here and talk to you all,” he explained, ”so I can blame it on them because they made me do it.”
Tebow electrified the NFL last year by taking a 1-4 Denver team on an incredible run: seven wins in eight games, including three in overtime and another two won in the waning moments of regulation. Suddenly, the league was gripped by Tebowmania. Never mind the bad passing mechanics and Tebow’s tendency to tuck the ball and run.
The Jets are hoping he has more surprises left in him — in whatever role he serves.
”Hopefully, by me being here, we can be a little bit better,” Tebow said, decked out in a gray suit and a light green tie. ”I think I can add something, and that’s my hope and prayer.”
Coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum have insisted for days that Sanchez is the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback. The two, along with owner Woody Johnson, missed Tebow’s news conference because they were attending league meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. No teammates were there, either, although Tebow said he has spoken with several of them already.
”Ultimately, I’m just going to be myself and just have fun with it,” he said.
And, Sanchez thinks there can be plenty of happy moments, with the two of them being key parts of the offense.
”I’m a team guy and I’ll do whatever it takes to win,” Sanchez said. ”If changing a few things up a couple of times a game is what we need to do, I’m totally on board.”
Ryan suggested 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 QB.
”I don’t see Tim just holding a clipboard,” Ryan said. ”He’s going to be playing for us. There is no doubt.”
Tebow said that, first and foremost, he’s a quarterback and that’s the position he wants to play. But ”however I can help the team, I am open to it.”
Tebow also briefly spoke about his strong Christian beliefs, something that has made him much more than just a football star. He said his faith is the most important thing to him, but he didn’t want that to be the focus Monday. The quarterback did think it’s funny so much has been made of ”Tebowing” in the last year.
”I’m pretty sure I’m not the first athlete who has gotten on a knee and prayed, but it’s known as `Tebowing,”’ he said. ”I’m not sure why. It probably has a little bit to do with the hype.”
And there’s been plenty of that, going back to his Heisman-winning days at the University of Florida. Just last month, Tebow was declared Denver’s starting quarterback going into this summer. Not long afterward, four-time MVP Peyton Manning came to town and Tebow was told he could be traded.
Manning was introduced as the Broncos’ newest quarterback last Tuesday, and about 24 hours later, Tebow was 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; a technicality required Tebow to sign a rewritten contract that kept him on the Broncos’ salary cap until Saturday afternoon.
All that is history now.
”This is where I want to be,” he said, adding that he preferred the Jets over the Jaguars because he was already familiar with New York’s coaches.
He and Ryan share the same agent, and they chatted at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis last month.
”I’ve always watched him,” Tebow said. ”I got to see `Hard Knocks,’ see how he coached, and that was fun. From our conversations that we’ve had the last few days, I think he’s just excited that I’m here. I think it’s a day-by-day process to see what happens and how well, you know, the wildcat is working.”
The Jets intend to make things work with Sanchez, too. After all, less than two weeks ago he was given a contract extension that included $20.5 million guaranteed.
Doesn’t bother Tebow.
”Whatever my role is, however I can expand that role, I’m going to try to do that,” he said. ”Every day in practice, I’m going to go out there and compete and try to get better as a quarterback, try to figure out any way possible to help this team any way that I can.”