Commentary

All eyes on must-see Timmy T

Jets' new backup QB makes Cortland the site of NFL's most intriguing camp

Updated: August 1, 2012, 2:25 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

And on the 122nd day, Tim Tebow hits training camp.

Exactly four months after he was introduced at a Super Bowl-sized news conference, the most famous backup quarterback in the NFL will roll into Cortland, N.Y., Thursday with the rest of the New York Jets.

Or maybe he'll arrive via private jet, which is how he traveled to the Jets after his trade from the Denver Broncos.

Let's face it, Tebow could blow into town on a skateboard, accompanied by Tony Hawk, and it wouldn't change the theme:

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow, Mark Sanchez
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesTim Tebow is the backup, but there will be times when Mark Sanchez is the QB in the background.

This will be the most fascinating training camp in the NFL, as the Jets attempt to integrate Tebow into their offense as a Wildcat quarterback without encroaching on incumbent Mark Sanchez.

Yeah, good luck with that.

The publicity-hungry Jets took a pass on HBO's "Hard Knocks" this summer, but who needs "Hard Knocks" when you have your own reality show?

"Good Morning, Tebow."

(Most of the practices are scheduled for 8 a.m.)

It will be a distraction, no doubt, but that might not be a bad thing for the Jets. Tebow's presence will overshadow the negative storylines -- Darrelle Revis and his contract situation, Santonio Holmes and his big mouth and the inevitable questions about last season's turmoil.

This will be Rex Ryan's biggest challenge as a coach, managing a quarterback dynamic that could blow up with one slip of the tongue. It almost happened in minicamp, when he mentioned that Tebow probably would get some first-team reps in training camp.

Envisioning the headlines and a trending topic on Twitter, the Jets' public relations staff went into damage control, claiming the coach meant first-team reps in the Wildcat, not the conventional offense.

Riiiiight.

Except for the one hiccup, Ryan did a good job of handling it in the offseason, but that was the easy part. Now the whole thing goes public -- we're talking live cut-ins on "SportsCenter" -- and everybody will be able to see how the grand experiment is unfolding.

"He has to make it work," a former general manager said of Ryan. "If he doesn't, it's all fluff. He's got as much pressure on him as Sanchez. He can't screw up the quarterback deal; he'll lose credibility, big time. It's going to be a slippery slope because Rex is probably feeling pressure to win."

In other words, if his public support of Sanchez wavers even slightly, it's breaking news.

Aside from drawing big crowds of fans and media, and telling everyone he's "excited" to be here, what should we expect from Tebow in camp?

As the No. 2 quarterback, Tebow should see extensive action in the first two preseason games, unless Ryan tweaks the plan. He might consider playing his starters more than usual -- read: Sanchez -- because they're installing a new offensive system and the first unit could use as many reps as possible.

Unless you've been in a witness-protection program, you know the Jets are planning to deploy Tebow in a Wildcat package. The question is, how much will they keep under wraps?

They haven't revealed many specifics. New offensive coordinator Tony Sparano is from the Bill Parcells School of Paranoia, so they might be hesitant to show much in games and public practices.

You will hear Ryan say, over and over, that Tebow is simply replacing Brad Smith in the Wildcat. Of course, Smith isn't a cultural icon with 1.7 million followers on Twitter. He never was a threat to Sanchez.

Tebow also will dabble a little on special teams, serving as the personal protector on the punt team and maybe another odd job or two. Their special teams-only practices usually draw sparse crowds, but that's about to change.

This might be obvious, but it bears repeating: Barring injury, Tebow has no shot of being the opening day starter. But that doesn't mean the preseason is meaningless. The coaches want to see how well he has absorbed Sparano's offense and if his throwing mechanics have improved after private lessons with throwing guru Tom House.

"One of my favorite quotes is, 'I don't know what my future holds, but I know who holds my future,'" Tebow said in minicamp. "That is something that gives me peace and comfort in whatever situation I'm in and whatever circumstances are thrown my way. That's how I try to handle everything.

"I'm not too worried about being The Man; I'm just worried about being the best man I can be."

Starting Thursday, he'll be The Man even though he isn't the Jets' No. 1 man.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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