The immediate reaction to Monday’s news of quarterback Tim Tebow signing with the New England Patriots was filled with eye rolls and grand sarcasm on Twitter.
“The circus” was coming to Foxborough.
A cult-like media swarm, one that craves news on all things Tebow in a 24/7 cycle, was destined to shake even the most media-savvy of NFL franchises. “Tebowmania” was going to take greater New England by storm.
But will it?
Not everyone’s convinced.
"Don’t mistake the New York media market for any other media market,” Bart Scott, a teammate of Tebow in New York last season, said by phone Tuesday. “And don’t mistake the situation last year with the situation up there (in New England) now. We’re talking about one franchise that did ‘Hard Knocks’ and another that doesn’t really do much media at all.”
Scott, who described Tebow as “a great kid,” “one of the guys” and a “terrific teammate,” said that Patriots coach Bill Belichick will handle the Tebow situation as he has handled previous combustible media situations — with complete and utter control. Furthermore, Scott suspects, the media covering Tebow this year will approach things with the fourth-year quarterback far differently than the way Tebow was treated a season ago.
“We’re talking about two different markets and two very different situations on the field,” Scott said. "They’re two totally different cases, man.
“Last year we had two quarterbacks going at it in training camp. It was about Mark (Sanchez) and Tim. And (Jets coach) Rex (Ryan) is different than Belichick. Rex is going to entertain questions, and the media’s going to keep asking them. Belichick won’t. And [with Tom Brady locked in at No. 1] there is no quarterback competition up there. Everyone knows Tim Tebow isn’t going to be competing for the starting job in New England.”
Asked if Tebow was a distraction a season ago in New York, Scott bristled.
“What? No,” he said. "And he won’t be up there. In New England, he has Bill Belichick and an offensive coordinator who once drafted him in the first round. This whole idea that he’s ‘bad’ for a team is inaccurate. If anything, Tim’s presence and work ethic makes you think you’re not working hard enough.”
Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, Tebow’s former teammate at the University of Florida, insisted that any added media attention Tebow brings will have no effect on the Patriots locker room.
“Media’s always going to be around,” Hernandez said. "Whether it’s one or 20 of them. If you let it be a distraction, then it’s your own fault.”
The media certainly were out Tuesday, as more than 50 reporters made the trip to Gillette Stadium to watch the team’s first mandatory minicamp practice open to the media. There were representatives from FOX Sports, CNN, CNBC, USA Today, the New York Daily News, Newsday, NFL Network and two hosts and a production crew from ESPN on hand for the new quarterback’s first day with the team.
As captured in this photograph taken by the Boston Globe, Tuesday afternoon was no ordinary minicamp practice.
But it was by no means a “circus,” either. And comparing it to the Jets’ now legendary Tebow “welcome” presser in Florham Park, N.J., last March is dubious. That was a Tebow tidal wave. Tuesday was a ripple.
Belichick, of course, is the main reason. He stopped any Tebowmania momentum dead in its tracks before the player even took the field.
The Patriots coach walked to the podium to address the media horde, wearing a slight grin on his face, acknowledging a larger crowd than he’s used to seeing on a Tuesday in June. But the smile dissipated quickly, as a visibly irritated Belichick swatted away one Tebow question after question.
The presser was a study in Bellichickian prose, really.
Asked about others questioning Tebow’s ability to play quarterback, the coach answered, “I’ve already said that.”
Asked again about Tebow, the quarterback, he said, “I’ve answered the question twice. He’s a talented player who is smart and works hard.”
On the practice of “Tebowing,” the sensation that took the Internet by storm in 2011, Belichick replied with a straight face, “I think we’ve already talked enough about him. We’ll see how he does and just go from there.”
Finally, when questioned whether Josh McDaniels, the man who drafted Tebow in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft as head coach of the Denver Broncos, had anything to do with the decision to sign the quarterback, Belichick looked off to the distance and just said, “I don’t know.”
You don’t know?
He wasn’t done.
I asked Belichick if he’d spoken with Urban Meyer, Tebow’s college coach and a longtime Belichick friend, over the past 48 hours.
“Whatever conversations I have with anybody would be between myself and that person anyways,” Belichick said. “I don’t think that’s anything that would be shared publicly.”
The reporters were taking their whacks, but Belichick was having none of it.
And if this is how it’s going to go the rest of the season, Belichick very well might just tire out the media. There are only so many times you can ask about Tebow without getting any real responses. Eventually, you have to move on to other topics.
To Scott’s point, if there’s no quarterback controversy or real desire from the fan base to see Tebow inserted into the game, why continue to fixate on the player? The same man who’s handled personalities such as Randy Moss, Chad Johnson and Albert Haynesworth could be the man to stop the Tebow media madness.
As for the backup quarterback himself, Tebow addressed reporters in a three-sentence, 44-second statement after practice that really didn’t say anything at all.
His words were, ”First and foremost, I just want to thank the Patriots for giving me an opportunity. I’m very thankful. It’s such an honor to be a Patriot and play for Coach Belichick and for Coach Daniels, learn under Tom (Brady) and be a part of this very successful franchise.”
Whereas last year’s introductory press conference hinted at the start of much more action to come, Tuesday’s proceedings were tame. No lightning-rod quotes. No quarterback controversy. No real indication of how or where Tebow will be used.
A lot of reporters made the trip to New England on Tuesday morning looking for answers to several questions surrounding the Tebow acquisition, and even some potential secondary plot lines. We quickly found out that neither this head coach — nor this organization — were going to be providing any of the above.
“I’m telling you, it’s not going to be like it was last year,” Scott said. “The media’s not going to treat it the same way. There are different media policies up there, and Belichick’s different. He’s like (Gregg) Popovich.”
Maybe Scott’s right. From the looks of the media contingent leaving the Patriots facility after practice, there was no indication that many of them will be back Wednesday.
Perhaps the circus really was in town for just one day.
Belichick 1, Media Circus 0.
Meanwhile, a hundred miles down I-95, Rex Ryan was asked not one or two, but 10 questions about Tebow at his press conference at the Jets facility. He answered most of them.