CORTLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Woody Johnson expected more reporters and TV cameras around his Jets than usual with Tim Tebow in town.
The Jets owner wasn’t counting on this much attention.
“I think the enormity of the coverage kind of surprised me a little bit,” Johnson said Tuesday during the team’s practice at training camp.
Tebow, the Jets’ backup quarterback, is one of the NFL’s most popular players because of his tough play on the football field and his Christian beliefs and humble approach off it. So, when the Jets acquired him from Denver in March, the media attention was expected to increase — and the 200 or so who covered Tebow’s introductory news conference was a sign of things to come.
But not everyone was thrilled by the acquisition. Former Jets quarterback and current WFAN co-host Boomer Esiason said this week he’d cut the media sensation.
“I disagree with that,” Johnson said about Esiason’s comments. “I think Tebow is going to be a very valuable part of this team going forward.”
One thing’s for sure: Tebow is as popular and divisive as ever. Still, the fact ESPN was camped out at SUNY Cortland for nearly a week providing live look-ins to practice, and the hordes of cameras and reporters showing up every day during training camp has surprised Johnson.
“Well I knew there would be press, there would be interest,” Johnson said, “but even by our standards, this is pretty amazing.”
And, Johnson and the Jets – “in a media business” – embrace it all.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We are in a media business and we want to give our fans an insight and the fact that they’re interested, I think works out well for us. We’d rather have them interested in it rather than apathetic and not paying attention.”
It has been an interesting situation during camp as Tebow has been the clear fan favorite, judging by the cheers every time he runs around on the field, and the T-shirts and jerseys in the stands. Meanwhile, starter Mark Sanchez is having a solid summer and firmly establishing himself as the leader of the team.
But the extra cameras and reporters are here for one player: Tebow.
“I don’t like it or not like it,” Johnson said. “It is what it is. You guys (media) are deciding that that’s important for you and your audience, so you’re making that decision and emphasizing that more, than maybe look into some of the other stuff on what’s happening with the team.”
Despite the overwhelming reception Tebow has received from the media and fans, Johnson doesn’t think the quarterback has had a major impact on the team’s marketing and sales – saying he doesn’t know “if any single player does that.”
If there is one, however, it might be Tebow. Good thing, too, since the Jets are heavily advertising on the internet and through radio commercials that tickets are still available for the upcoming season. No worries, Johnson insists.
“We will be sold out, guaranteed,” he said, smiling. “Guarantee. I’ll be like Namath.”
Johnson also heard the comments last week by President Barack Obama, who suggested Jets fans should be “nervous” that Tebow is on their roster because of a potential quarterback controversy.
“Well, I’m glad,” Johnson said smiling. “At least he’s a New York Jets fan, first and foremost. That’s important, the President of the United States being a Jets fan, that’s good. The fact that he’s a Jets fan, he cares, and he’s passionate about the New York Jets, obviously, I think it’s a positive.”
Johnson, of course, has been a major contributor to Mitt Romney’s campaign. He laughed when he was asked if he would talk to Romney about crafting a response.
“No,” Johnson said, “but Romney has been to some games.”
Johnson praised both of his quarterbacks for how they’ve dealt with the increased scrutiny, and added that he talked to Sanchez during a round of golf a few weeks ago.
“I think he’s handled it great,” Johnson said. “Mark also is maturing into his position. It’s his fourth year and you’ll see the evidence of three years of doing what he did, starting off with a bang. He’s throwing it well, he’s understands the new Tony Sparano system, I think, and I think he’s going to do great.”
NOTES: Johnson said he feels “stronger” about coach Rex Ryan than he did when he first hired him in 2009. … CB Darrelle Revis was in and out of practice at times with lower back stiffness, not the hamstring that bothered him early in training camp. … WR Santonio Holmes says he and the team are being cautious with his rib injury, which occurred during the team’s scrimmage Saturday night. Holmes thought he had broken a rib, saying he heard “a pop” and comparing it to a similar feeling to when he was injured a few years ago. He’s doubtful for the preseason opener at Cincinnati, but said he’s “getting better every day.”
What do you think of Johnson’s comments? Be heard in the comments below!
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)