Tebow Will Work to Start While Accepting Jets’ Backup Role

Tim Tebow says he will compete each day to become the New York Jets’ starting quarterback, and that’s what every football player would do.

Tebow, meeting the media for the first time in a press conference at the team’s practice complex in Florham Park, New Jersey, said he understands that he is the backup to Mark Sanchez, although that doesn’t mean he won’t try to earn the first-team position.

“I think for everybody who puts on a uniform, you want to go out there and play,” Tebow said in a televised news conference. “Every day in practice I am going to go out there, and I am going to compete.”

The Jets acquired Tebow and a seventh-round draft pick on March 21 from the Denver Broncos for fourth- and sixth-round selections. The move took place a day after Peyton Manning joined the Broncos, ending a two-week frenzy by several teams to sign the four-time National Football League Most Valuable Player, who was an Indianapolis Colt the last 14 seasons.

Sanchez signed a five-year, $58 million contract extension this month with more than $20 million guaranteed in the first two years, according to the New York Post, which cited a person it didn’t identify. Tebow said he has known Sanchez for a few years, and the two get along well.

“I think Mark is very secure as a football player and as a person in who he is,” Tebow said. “We’ll be able to encourage one another and be stronger together than we would be apart.”

In the Wildcat

Tebow will operate the Jets’ wildcat package, a formation that uses run-or-pass options to try to confuse defenses, and could play other positions, Jets coach Rex Ryan told reporters yesterday at league meetings in Palm Beach, Florida, according to the New York Daily News.

“Let’s not just look at him as a quarterback,” Ryan said. “I look at him as a football player.”

Tebow today agreed that he’s a football player above anything else, though his “dream” is to be a quarterback.

“That’s what I want to be and that’s what I believe I am, is a quarterback,” Tebow said. “However I can help the team, however I can make a difference, however they can use me, I’ll be open to it.”

Winning With Broncos

The Broncos were 1-4 last season when Tebow became the team’s starter. After splitting the next two games, Denver won six straight, including a stretch of four in a row where they rallied from fourth-quarter deficits. The Broncos made the playoffs at 8-8, winning their first postseason game in six years, a 29-23 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers that ended on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Tebow to Demaryius Thomas.

Tebow’s late-game heroics helped him increase an already large fan base that followed him from his days at the University of Florida, where he won two national titles and a Heisman Trophy as college football’s top player in 2007. He entered the NFL two seasons ago as the 25th overall draft pick.

The 24-year-old’s success became one of the dominant storylines in the NFL last season, spawning a phenomenon known as “Tebowmania” even with questions about his 46.5 pass-completion percentage and reliance on running as most teams built around strong-armed quarterbacks. A devout Christian with a devoted religious following, he kneeled to pray after winning games, which became a fad that is known as “Tebowing” and was mimicked worldwide in photos that circulated on social media websites.

‘Pretty Cool’

“I’m pretty sure I’m not the first athlete that has gotten on a knee and prayed,” Tebow said. “Somehow it’s known as Tebowing and I’m not sure why. If people are talking about prayer or talking about my faith, I think it’s pretty cool.”

Among those that welcomed Tebow to New York City was the American Bible Society, which has been running a brief video on a 10-foot-by-15-foot screen outside its midtown Manhattan headquarters.

“Quarterback who never quits, meet the city that never sleeps,” the message flashes. “Welcome Tebow.”

Tebow completed 126 of his 271 pass attempts last season for 1,729 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 660 yards and six scores.

Tebow was named America’s favorite pro athlete in an ESPN poll this year and his jersey was the second-best seller from April 2011 to March 2012 behind the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. It was fifth-most popular jersey the previous year, when he started three games.

No Publicity Stunt

Tebow said he didn’t see the trade for him as a publicity stunt, as critics including Jets Super-Bowl winning quarterback Joe Namath have said.

“I just think it had more to do with some coaches believing in me,” he said.

New York went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs, after which players complained of a divided locker room. Former Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson, an 11-year NFL veteran, said in a Jan. 18 interview with Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” program that the drama was bad as he’s seen in his career, and that Sanchez was pampered by coaches because he had no competition.

Asked about anonymous criticism from Jets’ teammates about holding a news conference for a backup quarterback, Tebow said it wasn’t his idea and that his actions would speak louder than his words.

“It’s my job to come in here and try to earn guys ‘ respect by how I work,” he said.

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