There very well may not be a more polarizing player in the National Football League than Tim Tebow. He's a quarterback whom America both loves and loves to hate.
That or desperately trying to hold on to a roster spot.
One of the more interesting tidbits of news to come from New England's practices on Friday included reports that Tebow was running a few drills with the running backs and receivers.
Tebow's still catching passes ... Lining up with back and receivers in a (non-contact) tackling drill.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 26, 2013
This news caused quite the stir, especially after head coach Bill Belichick was as vague as ever while discussing Tebow's status. Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reports Belichick refused to commit to Tebow as strictly a quarterback, stating that “I think we’ll use Tim where ever we feel like is best for the team.”
In an age where anything and everything sets off Internet conspiracy theories, this is all it will take to set the wheels in motion. By tomorrow, you can rest assured that someone will posit that this was the plan all along.
Oh, Tim Tebow just had some first-day of training camp nerves, right Tim? It'll be OK, you're going to be the new tight-end anyway.— Erika Leigh (@_ErikaLeigh) July 26, 2013
Did I say tomorrow?
Belichick, Machiavellian genius that he is, signed Tebow with a switch to tight end in mind, a way to bolster a stable of receivers that has been gutted in the past several months.
That brilliant fiend!
It's possible that's it. After all, with Rob Gronkowski and Jake Ballard on the physically unable to perform list and Aaron Hernandez gone, a tight-end position that was a strength could suddenly be a glaring weakness for the Patriots when the season starts.
However, it's far more likely that all it was was a desperate ploy by frustrated coaches who wanted to find something that Tebow wasn't mind-bogglingly bad at.
Let's examine a review of Tebow's first practice at quarterback for the Patriots:
Practice over. Tebow horrendous. #patriotstalk— Tom E. Curran (@tomecurran) July 26, 2013
Ouch, that was harsh. Surely it wasn't that bad.
"I felt pretty good out there. I felt like I made some good decisions," Tebow said after practice. "I've got to keep improving every single day. We'll go watch the film and we'll get better from it, but I felt good about the practice"
See? There you go! A completely unbiased opinion courtesy of the Associated Press via The Oregonian.
Oh wait. That was Tebow.
OK, well Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post was there!
Tebow just threw a wounded-duck screen pass and an interception on back-to-back snaps. Crowd is alternately groaning and laughing.— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) July 26, 2013
Fine, so maybe things didn't go swimmingly. However, there has to at least have been some silver lining that Bleacher Report AFC East lead writer Erik Frenz could have found in writing about Tebow's debut in Beantown for Boston.com:
Tebow's footwork was sloppy. He threw passes into coverage, he had passes batted at the line of scrimmage, and he held onto the ball too long at least twice in drills after being forced to scramble.
He was even victimized on one of the two highlights of the day, when defensive end Chandler Jones, who had dropped into coverage on the play, intercepted a pass from Tebow intended for running back George Winn.
Granted, it's only one practice, but this isn't exactly news in any event. If Tebow could throw a football with any accuracy or touch, he'd probably still be in Denver.
It's still disheartening for Tebow's many fans, and that's where the possibility of a position switch comes in.
It gives those folks hope. False hope.
Tebow himself alluded in Frenz's piece that, to this point, all his film study and preparation has been with the quarterbacks. If the Patriots were at all serious about a switch, some time would have been spent during pre-camp getting ready for it.
That isn't to say that we've seen the last of Tebow in receiving drills. The Pats may even work him into a preseason game in some capacity besides under center. Disparage his throwing all you want, but Tebow is still a very athletic player who showed off his wheels with a long run on Friday.
That athleticism may save his roster spot. What it won't do, however, is allow him to just slide over to a new position and be effective (at the NFL level, no less) in a few weeks.
Tebow may make the Patriots' 53-man roster (likely as a third "emergency" quarterback), but if he does, it will be as what he's always been—a marginal, but wildly athletic, quarterback.