Tim Tebow joined his new teammates on the practice field during his first day with the New England Patriots and then thanked the organization for giving him a chance after being cut by the New York Jets in April.
The former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback’s signing was announced by the Patriots on the same day as the start of the National Football League team’s mandatory minicamp. Tebow’s two-year contract is worth $1.36 million, with no guaranteed money and salaries of $630,000 this season and $730,000 in 2014, according to the NFL Network. There are also incentives based on playing time.
The media scrutiny that surrounded Tebow in New York and Denver followed him to New England, where 23 of the 27 questions posed to coach Bill Belichick during a news conference were Tebow-related. Tebow made a brief statement to reporters after practice, though he didn’t take any questions.
“I just want to thank the Patriots for giving me an opportunity,” Tebow said today in Foxborough, Massachusetts. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to working hard every single day and getting a lot better and learning under some great people.”
Tebow said he’s excited to play for Belichick, learn from two-time NFL Most Valuable Player Tom Brady and be reunited with Patriots offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels, who was head coach of the Broncos for the first 13 games of 2010 -- Tebow’s first season in Denver.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft briefly met with Tebow on the practice field today, shaking hands and chatting with his newest player, according to the NFL Network.
Tebow is listed as a quarterback on the Patriots’ roster, though Belichick declined to say or speculate on what his role with the team might be this season. With New England’s release of Mike Kafka yesterday, Tebow joins backup Ryan Mallett behind Brady, who’s won three Super Bowl titles with the Patriots.
“Anything we do is what we feel is in the best interest of the team,” Belichick said. “Tim is a talented player, who’s smart and works hard, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Jets coach Rex Ryan showed little faith in Tebow, who attempted eight passes for six completions, 39 yards and no scores during his only season in New York. He was the No. 2 quarterback to Mark Sanchez and was passed over for Greg McElroy when Sanchez was benched late in the season. After McElroy was injured, Ryan re-inserted Sanchez in the starting spot for the team’s final game rather than give Tebow a chance.
“I’m happy for the young man to get another opportunity in the league,” Ryan said today during a news conference at the Jets’ training facility. “If they want to replace Brady with him, that’s fine.”
Tebow had been voted America’s favorite active pro athlete in an ESPN fan-based poll after rushing for 660 yards in 2011 for Denver, where he ignited a fad known as Tebowing based on his kneel-and-pray pose after victories. His popularity became known as Tebowmania, even as questions remained about his passing skills and reliance on running.
The Broncos traded Tebow to the Jets in March 2012, one day after signing four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning.
The Jets said at the time they planned to use Tebow in their wildcat offense, a package featuring runs and passes by the quarterback. Instead, he spent most of the 2012 season on the sideline holding a clipboard. Even though Tebow saw limited playing time, controversy remained about the Jets’ quarterback job, as Mark Sanchez had a 6-9 record as a starter and threw 18 interceptions for the second straight season.
Tebow’s arrival in New England even captured the attention of other players around the NFL.
“It’s good that someone stepped up and signed him,” Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III said today at the team’s minicamp. “I wish the best for him.”
The Patriots are scheduled to host the Jets during the second week of the regular season on Sept. 12.