New England Patriots training camp just got a little more interesting. Media members spotted Tim Tebow working with the running backs and wide receivers in early drills, as Albert Breer of the NFL Network reported.
Tebow just a caught a ball from Mallett in a weird new drill I've never seen before. #AlertTheRubberneckers— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 26, 2013
Tebow's still catching passes ... Lining up with back and receivers in a (non-contact) tackling drill.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 26, 2013
Although it's impossible to make any definitive statements based on a couple drills, especially this early in training camp, it's an interesting development. Tebow has spent his entire NFL career attempting to prove he can thrive as a starting quarterback.
Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reported earlier in the day that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wouldn't commit to using the Florida product at any one position. In true Belichick fashion, he only said he would do what was best for the team:
"I think we’ll use Tim where ever we feel like is best for the team," Belichick said. "I know that’s what he’s committed to doing as well, whatever that is."
Asked about Tebow’s practice habits, Belichick said he likes what he sees.
"He’s got a great work ethic—great," Belichick said.
If that's the case, changing positions is the best course of action. With Tom Brady entrenched as the starter and Ryan Mallett serving as his chief backup, the number of quarterback snaps available for Tebow will be extremely limited.
In fact, according to Boston.com's Zuri Berry, Tebow had a rough day as a quarterback.
But when he was working at quarterback, he had a much more modest outing in practice. He finished the day going 6 for 10 with two interceptions in 11-on-11 drills. He was picked off by safety Nate Ebner and defensive end Chandler Jones.
Since Tebow's arrival, he's faced wild speculation on how the multi-skilled quarterback would be used.
"I'm just doing what I'm asked," Tebow said. "But so far I've been strictly in the QB room."
The only reason the shift during practice comes as a surprise is because most prior predictions pointed toward him remaining under center, not moving around the offense. Field Yates of ESPN stated as much in the weeks leading up to camp:
The question likely won't go away until training camp, but our stance on the matter won't change: Don't count on Tim Tebow to work as a tight end, or any other position besides quarterback. While Tebow has a burly, 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame, position switches are not simple in the NFL. But perhaps more importantly, there's enough for Tebow to learn and master as it relates to his quarterback duties with the Patriots. That's plenty for any newcomer to absorb.
What is the Patriots' best option with Tebow?
A few drills doesn't make that sentiment wrong. Tebow could still work almost exclusively as a quarterback moving forward. But when you combine the early camp reports with Belichick's comments, perhaps the team's stance is changing.
The Patriots have depth at quarterback with Brady and Mallett. That's not the case at other positions like wide receiver, tight end or even fullback. If they want Tebow to make an impact, finding a different role for him would help.
All that said, a position change is far from imminent. Breer provided a follow-up report as the team shifted into new drills and Tebow returned to his usual spot alongside the other quarterbacks. It was a brief stay with the other group.
Patriots are in team drills now ... For perspective, Tebow caught 3 or 4 balls in individual work. Back at QB now, been there mostly.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 26, 2013
The plans for Tebow should become more clear as training camp moves along. Nothing appears set in stone quite yet.