Media blitz already starts for Jets
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — They might be a one-ring franchise, but the New York Jets promise to be a three-ring circus this season with the addition of "backup" quarterback Tim Tebow to a potentially volatile mix with starter Mark Sanchez and head coach Rex Ryan.
On the first day of OTAs open to the media on Thursday, all three expressed optimism about where this experiment is headed, but all they had to do was look around to understand they are in the middle of a media minefield.
The crowd of reporters, still cameras, television crews and bloggers might have been a record for a workout in May.
Representing the Tebow camp on the sideline was Urban Meyer, his former coach at Florida who is now at Ohio State.
The Sanchez camp was represented on Twitter by agent Brian Murphy, who made this observation after Tebow threw two interceptions in a seven-on-seven drill: "No offense media, but of course Sanchez is going to outperform Tim T. Mark is a franchise quarterback and Tim is a great athlete."
As they say in the Bud Light commercials, "Here we go."
When Tebow arrived in the locker room and his new teammates saw media members converge like iron to a magnet, shouts of "Tebow! Tebow! Tebow!" echoed from every corner of the locker room.
"That's just fun," Tebow said of the ribbing. "They'll give me a hard time about it, and it'll be great. If they didn't, that's when you have to worry."
One of the main reasons the Jets traded for Tebow was to use him in the Wildcat formation that new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano used in Miami. But Tebow continued to emphasize he's not limited to playing that role.
"My No. 1 goal is to learn the offense and to be able to execute it as a quarterback and to be able to understand it and run our offense regardless of what's called," he said.
As for Sanchez, he found himself fielding questions about the Jets' pursuit of Peyton Manning, comparisons to Eli Manning and whether he's prepared to go under the media microscope next to Tebow.
"No offense to Tim, but I don't really think about Tim," Sanchez said. "I'm thinking about the play we have, the protection, what potential blitz we're going to get and making sure everybody is lined up right. Nothing has changed. I'm focused on football."
Of course, Ryan mentioned he expects the media covering training camp this summer to keep painstakingly accurate stats on how both quarterbacks perform. Sanchez, too, knows what to expect after three years in the big city.
"Don't get caught up in who completed what ball, who didn't," he said. "Don't even let your mind go there. It's not worth your time. It's a waste. Just focus on the next play. Be the leader this team needs."
Their journey is just beginning, but Sanchez and Tebow both understand the only critic who really matters is Sparano, a rough-edged, no-nonsense type who will push them, not coddle them.
Tebow admitted he got an earful after both interceptions from Sparano, who told him, "You've got to take your checkdown. It's right in front of you."
Sanchez said Sparano has emphasized the need to take better care of the football. He observed that it's a rare thing to get a smile from Sparano, and even then, you can't always trust it.
"Sometimes, it's a smile; sometimes, it's a smirk," Sanchez said. "You never know. He's tough on us; he's fair. He's an old-school guy. He wants things done right, and that's exactly what we need."