Commentary

No big top in Foxborough

Circus that follows Tim Tebow won't come to town with Bill Belichick's Patriots

Updated: June 11, 2013, 2:07 PM ET
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com

This won't be like it was with the Denver Broncos for quarterback Tim Tebow. He doesn't arrive with the weight of expectations of a first-round draft choice and franchise player.

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And this won't be like it was with the New York Jets because Tom Brady isn't Mark Sanchez. There is no question as to who is No. 1 on the depth chart in New England, and there also isn't much doubt that the club is high on No. 2 signal-caller Ryan Mallett.

Tebow comes to the Patriots and isn't guaranteed a spot on the team. He will play quarterback, sources confirm, and the Patriots kept just two of them on their final roster in 2012. Brady isn't going anywhere, and Mallett has two years remaining on his contract, so no one should be surprised if Tebow isn't around when the games count for real.

But for now, lighting the firecracker that is Tebow represents another classic Bill Belichick move.

Maybe Tebow lasts just a few weeks and this turns out to be a big favor from Belichick to help a player he likes try to reignite his NFL career. Then again, maybe it has shades of veteran Doug Flutie, who was signed in 2005 because Belichick liked the idea of having him around as a No. 3 quarterback who brought as much value with his presence as his football skills.

Belichick often says that when a team signs a player, it gets everything that comes with him -- on and off the field -- and surely the coach is aware that the media crush that comes with Tebow is unlike anything the modern-day NFL has seen.

When Tebow was traded to the Jets last year, ESPN set up an on-site "SportsCenter" studio at training camp. It was all Tebow, all the time.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
AP Photo/Julio CortezWith no expectations or uncertainty about the No. 1 quarterback and Bill Belichick's tight reins, the attention paid to Tim Tebow should be muted.

One can just envision how that conversation might go this year in New England, assuming Tebow is still around in late July.

Media relations director: Bill, think we could fit a live studio on the corner of the field?

Belichick: Nope. Need it for the blocking sleds.

Media relations director: Any thoughts on a good spot?

Belichick: Nope. Sorry about that.

Media relations director: Can we make Tebow available to the media today?

Belichick: Nope. Just the captains.

Belichick won't flinch. He's going to get peppered with Tebow questions, starting on Tuesday at 10:45 a.m. ET when he holds his first news conference of mandatory minicamp, and he'll have his answers well scripted. Expect something like this: "He's here to play quarterback, and we think he can help the team." It would be a surprise if there is much more elaboration.

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His players will get Tebow questions, too, and they'll be prepared as well, likely directing all of them back to Belichick. We've seen this drill before, with the likes of running back Corey Dillon (2004), Randy Moss (2007) and Chad Ochocinco (2011).

Dillon, Moss and Ochocinco had potential to bring a circus-like atmosphere with them based on what happened with their previous teams, and in each case, it never truly got out of control. Each player submerged his personal standing to fit into the team-first culture that Belichick has preached since becoming coach in 2000, limiting his interaction with the media.

Tebow, of course, is at a whole different level. But if he is willing to do the same as Dillon, Moss and Ochocinco -- and it's hard to imagine the Patriots signing him if he isn't fully on board -- this would represent one of Belichick's greatest victories in terms of team being bigger than the individual.

One example of this has been seen on the practice fields in recent weeks, as the Patriots are the only team in the NFL whose players aren't wearing jersey numbers. Everyone blends in as one.

That won't stop the cameras from finding Tebow, but if the past is any indication, the Patriots will limit Tebow's interaction with the media. Hard to imagine there will be any big news conference. If anything, it would be a few minutes after practice when Tebow is walking off the field.

This is the way the Patriots roll. It works for them.

As for Tebow, there are no guarantees for him this time around, a roster spot anything but a certainty. If this is going to work, he'll have to blend into the background.

When considering why Tim Tebow the Patriot is different from Tebow the Bronco or Tebow the Jet, start there.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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