Tim Tebow meets New York media

Updated: March 26, 2012, 9:09 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Tim Tebow was introduced Monday as the newest member of the New York Jets, telling a Super Bowl-sized news conference he preferred the Jets over his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars and downplaying a potential quarterback controversy with Mark Sanchez.

"I think we'll have a great relationship and, hopefully, we'll thrive together," said Tebow, adding that Sanchez seemed excited about the pairing when they talked last week by phone.

Sanchez followed suit in his own conference call shortly after 5 p.m. ET, saying he's not concerned with being knocked from the top spot on the quarterback depth chart.

"We're adding another player and we're not replacing anybody," Sanchez said. " ... I'm not worried about losing my spot but I think [general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan] have been perfectly clear on the purpose of the signing is to add a new wrinkle and not to replace anybody."

Still, the sight of a backup quarterback getting his own news conference seemed odd, but Tebow handled it well, calmly navigating through the tough questions and smiling throughout the 32-minute session. He even seemed a bit uncomfortable with all the attention -- after all, he's a backup quarterback -- but he claimed it wasn't his idea to have a full-blown news conference.

"You can blame the guys upstairs," he said with a laugh, referring to the front office. "They wanted me to do it."

It was a bizarre setup because Tebow was alone on a raised platform, as no members of the Jets' hierarchy were in attendance. Tannenbaum, Ryan and owner Woody Johnson were 1,200 miles away, attending the NFL meetings in Palm Beach, Fla.

Tebow, wearing a gray suit with a lime-green tie, was asked repeatedly about Sanchez and his projected role on the team. He avoided making any tabloid headlines.

According to the Jets, Tebow is the No. 2 quarterback and will be used in the Wildcat formation, with Ryan hinting Sunday that Tebow could be on the field for as many as 20 plays per game.

Ryan suggested on Sunday that Tebow could be used at a position other than quarterback. He kept referring to Tebow as a "football player," his ability not limited to quarterback.

"I don't see Tim just holding a clipboard," Ryan told a group of reporters in Florida. "He's going to be playing for us. There is no doubt."

Ryan added: "There won't be a better Wildcat quarterback in the game. Is that his only role? I don't believe that. We'll see."

Tebow didn't say he's gunning for Sanchez's job, but he stills sees himself as a starting-caliber quarterback.

"First and foremost, I've always said that I'm a football player first, and then a quarterback. But that's always been my dream and what I've wanted to be is a quarterback," he said, adding: "I'm excited to be a Jet and help this team in any way that I can in whatever my role is, and if I can expand that role, I'm going to try to do that."

Tebow also addressed the lingering question over his reported preference for the Jets over the Jaguars. He backtracked on a statement he made last week, now claiming he did have some input into his destination. He thanked the Denver Broncos for allowing him to have a say.

Ultimately, Tebow said he chose the Jets because he has "a better relationship with the Jets' coaches" than the Jacksonville staff. The Jaguars got involved in the trade talks when the Jets-Broncos agreement was imperiled by a contractual snafu, and the two teams made similar offers.

But at the owners meetings, Jacksonville owner Shahid Khan said Monday that his team didn't think Tebow wanted to become a Jaguar.

"He didn't want to come," Khan said to The Florida Times-Union. "Any one of the 53 players we have, have to be committed to Jacksonville, making us be the best team we are. The question was: Did he want to come? And if the decision had been taken out [of his hands] and we got him, that would not be good for him, or for us."

This was a controversial trade for the Jets, who have been widely criticized for acquiring a polarizing player whose role, at least on paper, appears relatively minor. Jets legend Joe Namath ripped the franchise in a 1050 ESPN New York radio interview last week, calling it a "publicity stunt."

Namath chimed in again, tweeting, "After watching Tebow's press conference my feelings haven't changed about it ... I like him, I believe him and he'll be an asset to the team."

Tebow I think we'll have a great relationship and, hopefully, we'll thrive together.

-- Tim Tebow, on new teammate Mark Sanchez

But Namath added in another tweet, "My opinion hasn't changed regarding the trade though. I still feel the Jets best chance to win is with Sanchez on the field."

Namath's image hovered over the news conference -- literally. Inside the Jets' field house, where the news conference was held, there's a huge picture of Namath and other members of the team's Ring of Honor.

The Jets held it in the field house -- a franchise first -- because of the large turnout. More than 200 credentialed members of the media turned out, with 36 TV cameras jammed together on a platform. It all happened in the end zone on the indoor field. Outside, at least a dozen satellite trucks were lined up.

In terms of sheer numbers, it was the largest news conference in team history.

The Jets, sensitive to the fact that Tebow was acquired to be a backup, tried to keep it understated. He didn't pose for pictures and there was no jersey presentation. No current players were in attendance. The Jets billed it as a player "availability," not a news conference.

At 12:06, Tebow emerged from the team's offices and made the 50-yard walk to the podium, with at least 20 still photographers -- on bended knee -- clicking away as he strode across the artificial turf.

He stepped to the podium, looked out at the crowd and asked, "How's it going?"

From there, Tebow shifted into full gush mode, repeatedly saying how "excited" he is to be a member of the Jets. He said he wasn't insulted by those who called it a publicity-motivated move.

"I just think it has more to do with some coaches believing in me and, hopefully, thinking I'm an OK football player," he said.

Tebow also briefly spoke about his strong Christian beliefs, something that has made him much more than just a football star. He said his faith is the most important thing to him, but he didn't want that to be the focus on Monday. The quarterback did think it's funny so much has been made of "Tebowing" in the past year.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesIn terms of volume, Tim Tebow's introduction to New York was the largest news conference in the history of the Jets franchise.

"I'm pretty sure I'm not the first athlete who has gotten on a knee and prayed, but it's known as 'Tebowing,' " he said. "I'm not sure why."

The Jets acquired Tebow last Wednesday in a trade with the Broncos, sending fourth- and sixth-round draft choices to Denver and receiving a seventh-rounder in return. The Jets also had to pay $2.5 million to the Broncos to settle a disagreement about salary advances in his contract.

The initial plan was to hold the news conference last Friday, but a contractual snag caused the postponement.

Before he was introduced, Tebow met with members of the coaching staff. Interestingly, he also chatted with special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, who plans to use him as the personal protector on the punt team.

The Jets are smitten with Tebow's versatility, believing he can help the team in many ways. One challenge is trying to make sure that Tebow doesn't become bigger than the team, which could cause a backlash in the locker room.

Reportedly, some players are dismayed that Tebow received rock-star treatment from the organization. Though the Jets had nothing to do with it, a huge Tebow billboard -- and ad for the underwear he endorses -- appears outside the Lincoln Tunnel.

"Hopefully, they know I have nothing to do with that," he said, referring to his new teammates.

The Jets' locker room was torn last season by dissension, and it will be fascinating to see how Tebow is accepted. He said he hopes to win them over with his work ethic and professionalism.

"I just want to make this team a little bit better," he said.

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Jane McManus and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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