Rex: Tebow the Patriots' project now

Updated: June 11, 2013, 6:57 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets say they're happy for Tim Tebow. That's basically all they said Tuesday about their former teammate.

Borrowing from the Bill Belichick media policy, the Jets were bland and brief, responding to Tebow queries as if they were instructed to stay away from the subject.

"That's a trick question," said linebacker Quinton Coples, when asked to comment on Tebow signing with the New England Patriots.

The irony was obvious. A year ago, the Jets couldn't stop talking about Tebow, predicting he'd be a dynamic weapon in their offense and a headache for opposing defenses. Now? Out of sight, out of mind.

"If they want to replace (Tom) Brady with him," Rex Ryan deadpanned, "that's fine."

That amounted to Ryan's most candid remark on Tebow, whom the Jets released six weeks ago after one ill-fated season in New York. For the most part, Ryan seemed ambivalent.

"I'm not worried about anything really," Ryan said at the start of his team's minicamp. "I'm happy for the young man to get another opportunity in the league. It didn't work out here. Obviously, he had more success in Denver than he did here. It is what it is."

For a year, Ryan was peppered with questions about Tebow and his role -- or non-role -- with the Jets. That didn't change Tuesday. The coach saw it coming, ending his opening statement by saying, "I have a funny feeling there will be more questions about former players than current players."

He was right. Ten of 24 questions involved Tebow. Just like old times.

"It's not a surprise to me that Tim would be picked up," Ryan said. "As I've said before, he's a tremendous young man. Very competitive. I'm happy for him. I look forward to competing against him."

Ryan noted that the Jets will be facing several former players and coaches in the AFC East. He mentioned tight end Dustin Keller (Miami Dolphins) and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine (Buffalo Bills). He's not a division foe, but cornerback Darrelle Revis (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) could've been added to the list.

In fact, the Jets face Revis in Week 1, followed by Tebow in Week 2. But Tebow, of course, is different because ... well, he's Tebow.

A year ago, Ryan bragged about Tebow and how the rest of the league would have to make special plans to face him.

Now the Jets could be one of those teams. This time, Ryan downplayed that factor, claiming the league has adjusted to running quarterbacks because of the success last year of Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III.

Unlike the Jets, who hyped Tebow as a Wildcat quarterback, the Patriots claim he will be used only as a conventional quarterback. Ryan said it doesn't matter where they play him.

"We'll be ready to face (Tebow)," Ryan said. "We'll be ready to face (Rob) Gronkowski and (Aaron) Hernandez, too. We'll be prepared to face Russ Francis if he comes back."

The locker-room reaction was so non-descript that it bordered on laughable.

Wide receiver Stephen Hill claimed he didn't know that Tebow had signed with the Patriots. Tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said he hadn't given it any thought. Center Nick Mangold wished him well, but said his primary concern with the Patriots is defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, a longtime nemesis.

"I don't want to comment on it too much," tackle Austin Howard said. "Because of his work ethic, I'm happy to see him with another team. But as far as anything else goes, I'm focused on the Jets."

At least Ryan doesn't have to deal with the Tebow circus anymore. It packed its tents and traveled up to Foxborough, Mass. Ryan said he has no advice for Belichick on how to handle the media swarm.

"He's not going to listen to me, and he shouldn't," Ryan said. "He'll do what he does."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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