FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Patriots third-string quarterback Tim Tebow, who played at the University of Florida with Aaron Hernandez, said Friday that Hernandez’s murder charge is “heartbreaking and sad.”
“It’s just heartbreaking and sad and all my thoughts and prayers go out to all the families that were involved,” he said. “I understand why you have to ask all the questions, that’s part of doing your job. Part of mine is listening to instruction and we’ve been told not to talk about it.”
Tebow then defended his former coach at Florida, Urban Meyer, who has come under scrutiny in the wake of Hernandez’s murder charge.
“I feel like Coach Meyer is a great man, one of the best I’ve had the privilege of being around,” he said. “He is someone that not only tries to win football games; he’s someone who tries to invest in young men’s lives and help young men grow. He cares very deeply about that. That’s one of the reasons I’m so close to him and so proud of him.”
As for Tebow, his first full practice with the Patriots generated buzz that is usually reserved for the team’s star quarterback Tom Brady.
When he arrived on the soggy fields around 8:50 a.m. ET, a loud roar erupted from the crowd. At various points of practice, chants of “Te-bow!, Te-bow!” could be heard.
Then by the time the two hour and 30 minute practice was complete, Tebow entered a waiting media scrum, and unlike the day he generated back-page headlines in New York tabloids by running off the field without a shirt on a rainy day, this time he kept his red No. 5 jersey on.
“It was a lot of fun to get out here and really start practice,” Tebow said after signing autographs for fans. “I felt good about the practice today.”
Tebow’s fit with the Patriots remains a hot topic as he is third on the quarterback depth chart behind Brady and No. 2 Ryan Mallett. Could he be more than a quarterback? It was notable that in addition to playing quarterback in 11 on 11 drills Friday, Tebow also took part in 1-on-1 run-after-catch/tackling technique drills in which he caught a short pass from a quarterback and attempted to elude a defender in a confined space. That could be a sign that the Patriots have plans to tap his running skills in some form.
“I just do what I’m told and work as hard as I possibly can to do the best job I can with whatever I’m asked to do,” Tebow said, adding that so far he’s strictly spent time in the quarterback room.
Earlier in the day, Patriots coach Bill Belichick deflected a question when asked if his plan is to play Tebow exclusively at quarterback.
He was asked if he now feels more comfortable in an environment where he won’t in the spotlight as much as he was with the New York Jets.
“It’s nice to be advised on things and to feel like I have it structured,” he answered. “I’m going to do what they ask me to do; I feel like that goes with everybody on the team. We really are buying into what they are asking us to do.”
For Tebow, part of that is working closely with Brady.
“He’s one of the best of all time. You get to watch him, you get to sit in the meetings with him, talk to him, come out here and train together. You pick up a lot of good things, a lot of good traits,” he said.
“I feel like we have a great relationship. I felt like we’ve had a good relationship over the last few years playing against each other, talking here and there, but I feel like it will obviously grow being on the same team.”
With several reporters from New York present, Tebow was peppered about his time with the Jets, such as whether he feels 2012 was a wasted year for his career.
“I feel like in every situation, it is a learning opportunity in life, not only football,” he said. “There are ups. There are downs. There are learning opportunities. There is praise and there is criticism, and you have to learn to handle everything.”
When asked a follow-up on how frustrating it was with the Jets, Tebow responded, “It’s this year and we just had the first team practice with the New England Patriots. I feel like it went pretty well and I was excited about it.”