Tim Tebow is heading home – possibly as only a sideline spectator.
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It will be a game-time decision as to whether the New York Jets’ backup quarterback plays in the team’s game in his hometown of Jacksonville against the Jaguars on Sunday.
”As far as Tim is concerned, we want to make sure,” coach Rex Ryan said Friday. ”He’s done more this week in practice, quite a bit more. We want to see how he travels and what he feels like on game day.”
Tebow, healing from two broken ribs, will fly with the team Saturday and Ryan and the team doctors will determine before the game if he will play. He is listed as questionable after being limited in practice all week.
Tight end Dustin Keller will likely not play after being sidelined all week at practice with a sprained left ankle. He is listed as doubtful, while wide receiver Clyde Gates (concussion) is out. Rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill (knee) and nose tackle Sione Po’uha (lower back) are questionable after being limited Friday, while defensive tackle Damon Harrison is doubtful after not practicing a day after turning an ankle.
If Tebow can play, Ryan said it’s possible all three quarterbacks – Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy and Tebow – could be active for this first time this season.
”It’s something you don’t really want to do,” Ryan said. ”Sometimes at this time of year, you have so many nicks that you’re trying to find a guy to put in that spot. You’ll very rarely have three quarterbacks up in today’s game.”
McElroy, however, probably earned a chance to be active for the second time in his two-year career after taking over for a benched Sanchez against Arizona last Sunday and leading New York to the only touchdown of the game in a 7-6 victory.
”I want Mark and I want Tim to go out there and play fantastic, and I know they will,” said McElroy, who was 5 of 7 for 29 yards in his NFL debut. ”That’s my goal this week, and that’s my role this week, to make sure those guys perform as best as they possibly can. The best way to do that is to try to visualize and try to have enough communication with those guys and let them know what the defense is doing.”
McElroy took snaps only with the scout team this week as Sanchez worked with the first-team offense after Ryan decided to stick with him as the starting quarterback.
”Nothing really changed all that much,” McElroy said. ”It’s been relatively similar for me throughout the course of the week.”
Tebow is a unique case because of the multiple roles he fills for the Jets, running their wildcat-style read-option packages and also playing on special teams as the personal punt protector. But, Ryan caught himself during his news conference Friday giving away that the Jets didn’t have any wildcat periods in practice this week.
”I don’t want to say that we don’t have any wildcat, so I kind of blew that there,” Ryan said, smiling. He then quickly joked: ”But besides our two additional wildcat periods we had this week …”
Ryan also basically ruled out Tebow assuming his role as the punt protector for this week. So, it appears his role would be more limited than usual if he does play.
Tebow was injured at Seattle on Nov. 11, and played three offensive snaps the following week at St. Louis. He was active but Ryan kept him on the sideline – to be used only in ”an emergency” – against New England after the quarterback convinced the coach he could play following a pregame evaluation.
Despite being medically cleared, Tebow was inactive last Sunday against Arizona because he still wasn’t completely healed. Tebow said Wednesday he would have another set of X-rays, likely later in the week, to see how the healing is progressing.
Ryan has been pleased with what he saw from Sanchez since announcing that he would remain the starter for at least this week.
”He’s had an excellent week of practice,” Ryan said. ”I see a lot of energy from him. I see him bouncing around and you can tell he feels good. I think he feels good about the plan, and I think he’s confident.”
Sanchez is looking to bounce back in a big way following perhaps the worst stretch of his NFL career. He has two touchdowns, five interceptions and two lost fumbles in four games – and his first NFL benching – since the team’s bye-week break last month.
”He has pulled himself up before in situations,” Ryan said. ”But I think his competitiveness (will help him) and he understands, you just have to go out and play the position and do it to the best of your ability, believe in your teammates and I think that’s it. Protect the football. That’s all we’re asking him to do. Play the position, do what you do, but protect the football.”
Sanchez will likely be without his favorite target this week in Keller, who was hurt late in the opening half against Arizona. Keller is second on the team with 28 receptions, but backup Jeff Cumberland has been solid this season with 21 catches for 233 yards and two touchdowns – including the one he caught from McElroy last week.
”I’m really happy with the way Jeff Cumberland has progressed,” Ryan said. ”We expected him to get better, but you see it, really, as a blocker but even as a receiver. He’s made some nice catches for us and things, so we’re fortunate to have Jeff behind us.”