By Ernie Palladino
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If the Patriots training camp turns into the Tebowmania circus that swallowed up Jets camp last year, lay the blame squarely on the media this time.
It will all be made up. Fabricated. A William Randolph Hearst “You give me the pictures, I’ll give you the war” production.
That’s because Tebowmania essentially died when the Jets cut him loose after the draft. The fact that he now belongs to Bill Belichick instead of Rex Ryan means, by its very nature, that the carnival atmosphere that surrounded Tebow last year has vanished, at least until he actually does something on the field.
What that something may be will not be team-changing, however. The expectations that followed him from Denver to the Jets no longer exist. Gone as well is any hint of the quarterback controversy that destroyed not only the locker room, but Mark Sanchez in 2012. Anyone who believes Tebow has the remotest shot of challenging the great Tom Brady for playing time should run, not walk, to the nearest psychologist for a quick tuneup. Belichick, genius that he is, knows enough not to fool around with a quarterback who has won him three Super Bowls and brought him to two others.
The Pats are not a team crying for a Wildcat back, so there will be little or no work for the 6-foot-3, 236-pounder there. And it’s not like Belichick is going to convert his offensive playbook to read-option to accommodate someone they just signed cheap for two years.
Tebow is just a guy now; a guy who has to fight along with the rest of the non-starters. He’s now a guy who has guarantees for neither a roster spot nor paycheck.
Add to that Belichick’s personality. Unlike Woody Johnson, the publicity-hungry owner of the Jets, and windy sidekick Ryan, Belichick prefers the low profile route. Low-low, like Siberian gulag low. If the coach had his way, the first the public would ever see of his players would be the first preseason game, when the league demands they come out of hiding.
Ryan, desperate for something to goose his ineffective offense, used Tebow for all of 70 snaps. Belichick, whose starting quarterback rings up 35-point games as frequently as others sneeze during hay fever season, will use him even less because Brady never comes out. That’s if he keeps Tebow at all.
Maybe Tebow gets time as a personal protector or wing blocker on field goals and extra points. Maybe he gets a turn as a decoy tight end, since he doesn’t have the weight or hands replace Rob Gronkowski during the 265-pounder’s convalescence from back surgery. For any real passing, Brady can turn to Hernandez, who at 245 still outweighs Tebow by 10 pounds.
Tebowmania is therefore dead. Dead as a doornail. But Tebow’s career may just have been saved by this signing. If he is still with the Patriots for the opener, it will mean the personnel genius Belichick will have found an appropriate role for him. Probably a minor one, but one that can help his team win.
And he’ll do it in quiet fashion, which is what the likable Tebow could use after the tumult of 2012. Belichick gave the media a taste of what training camp might be like with his minicamp-opening press conference Tuesday. Five minutes in, he’d had enough of the Tebow talk.
He revealed nothing when he did speak. Typical Belichick. Imagine Ryan or Johnson doing that.
The media can set up all the tents it wishes in Foxborough. Gawk at the practices, grill Belichick. They will see nothing. There will be no grand and glorious resurrection for Tebow; just a fight to earn a paycheck. If the Pats run all over the Jets in Week 2, it will be Brady and his backfield and his receivers doing the running over.
Unlike the Jets, the Patriots are more than their quarterback, though the list of guys Belichick would want running his team gets awfully short after Brady. Tebow isn’t among them.
For a guy trying to make it in the NFL — again — Tebow couldn’t have landed in a better situation.
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