- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- On Thursday, Jets coach Rex Ryan said he could consider using backup quarterback Tim Tebow as a running back. Asked to confirm later that afternoon, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano offered a cagey “We’ll see” over his spectacles.
So come Friday afternoon, Tebow was greeted by a sizable contingent of print and television reporters and the matter of Tebow as a running back was on the agenda.
Did you practice at running back?
“I practiced, carrying the ball a few times” Tebow said. “If running back is carrying the ball, then sure.”
Is Tebow going to be a running back for Gang Green, or more of a red herring? Several team sources said they didn't see him practice at the position this week.
Between the three punt fakes this season and the constant threat -- if that’s the right word -- of Tebow in the Wildcat, it seems Tebow might be most valuable to the Jets as a decoy. This week the Jets go to Foxborough, Mass., to face their AFC East rival the Patriots, which turns up the heat on gamesmanship.
Tebow said, as he often does, he is happy to do whatever helps the Jets win, even if that means a new job every week.
“Coach Ryan and coach Sparano try to come up with new game plans every week and be creative, and so we just try to be prepared for whatever they ask us to do,” Tebow said of his shape-shifting role. “And especially me in particular you just try to listen, and if you have a specific role on a specific week then do it well.”
It is certainly plausible Tebow could be used as a running back this week. The Jets have a need, given Bilal Powell's dislocated shoulder last week and Joe McKnight being questionable for the Patriots game with a high ankle sprain. He hopes to play but Ryan said McKnight would be a game-time decision.
The starter at running back, Shonn Greene, who had 161 yards and three touchdowns last week and was named FedEx Ground Player of the Week, needs someone to help with the load. Healthy backup Jonathan Grimes was signed by the Jets on Sept. 26, and Ryan wasn’t sure Grimes would have such a big backup role so soon.
Tebow has rushed for 64 yards this season, but almost exclusively after direct snaps, and a few times on punt fakes. Although he has lined up at running back (most recently two weeks ago) he did not get the handoff.
“The thing about Tim, with him being a football player like we’ve always talked about, by playing quarterback, he knows all the positions,” Ryan said Thursday. “Can you plug him in at running back? Can you plug him in at tight end? I think the answer is yes.”
But maybe not so much at wide receiver, where Tebow once saw a pass from Mark Sanchez that hit him on the side of the helmet and fell incomplete.
One way that Tebow hasn’t been used is as a traditional quarterback, backup or otherwise. He was asked if that was a role he’d like to play more of.
“Whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do with all my heart and love it and have fun doing it,” Tebow said.
Is there any way in which he might not be used?
Yes, allowed, Tebow. “Rushing the passer,” he said with a smile.