Tim Tebow might play at RB

Updated: October 19, 2012, 11:03 AM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Tim Tebow could be used as a running back when the New York Jets play the New England Patriots on Sunday in Foxborough, Mass., coach Rex Ryan said during his Thursday news conference.

"That's a possibility," Ryan said. "The thing about Tim, with him being a football player like we've always talked about, by playing quarterback he knows all the positions and so, can you plug him in at running back? Can you plug him in at tight end, whatever? I think the answer is yes."

Ryan was asked about Tebow after he announced that the Jets' two backup running backs, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight, would not practice for the second straight day. Powell injured his shoulder in Sunday's win against the Colts, and McKnight hurt his ankle soon after.

Tebow, officially the team's backup quarterback, has 64 rushing yards this season, but almost all out of the Wildcat formation after a direct snap. He gained muscle mass during the offseason to help block in his new role with the punt-protection team. So although technically a quarterback, Tebow has acquired the physique for contact and has been used to block on offense as well.

Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano agreed there was a possibility that Tebow could play at running back, but said there were "possibilities in a lot of things. We'll see."

Sparano was asked if Tebow would be good at the position.

"I think Tim Tebow can be good at whatever he wants to be good at," Sparano said.

Tebow has played running back this season, taking a couple of snaps at the position against the 49ers, but none of his carries have come as a back. They've all come from the shotgun as part of the Wildcat and read-option package.

"I would be ready for whatever I would be asked to do, absolutely," Tebow said Wednesday.

Would that include playing extensively at running back Sunday?

"I don't know," Tebow said. "It's not something that's been talked (about) or planned or worked on at all, so probably not."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, speaking Wednesday, said Tebow is "really another running back for them."

The Jets are woefully thin in the backfield, but the reason they didn't sign one this week, according to sources, is the feeling that Tebow could play the position. It's a sure sign that Tebow will be involved in the game plan.

The possibility of using Tebow at running back could be a reason the Jets brought in quarterback Kevin O'Connell for a visit and physical Tuesday.

Shonn Greene, the team's starting running back, had 161 rushing yards against the Colts on Sunday, a career high in his fourth season.

An interesting element in using Tebow as a running back is that he bears some similarity to Greene, whose strength is power rather than speed and agility.

"(Tebow is) not going to be a blazer compared to other running backs, but he's got power," Ryan said.

ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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