Rex Ryan now says Tim Tebow would have played only in an emergency

Tim Tebow, center, stands next to head coach Tim Tebow, center, stands next to head coach Rex Ryan, right, of the New York Jets late in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. (Nov. 22, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty

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Rex Ryan contradicted himself at every turn as he tried, yet again, to explain why he would enter a must-win game against his hated rival with only one healthy quarterback and an injured Tim Tebow as his No. 2.

"People have played with cracked ribs and all that stuff," Ryan said via conference call Friday, a day after the Jets lost to the New England Patriots, 49-19.

Tebow, who disclosed after the game that he fractured two ribs in a Week 10 loss to Seattle, didn't play a single snap against the Patriots. After the game, Ryan said he would have used him only if the Jets "absolutely" needed him to win the game.

On Friday, he defended his decision to suit up Tebow and keep third-stringer Greg McElroy deactivated even though he told his special teams and offensive coordinators not to use Tebow in any capacity.

"It was told to me that he could play, but I wasn't going to play him unless it was an absolute emergency,'' Ryan said Friday. "Tim came to me, he's like 'I can play. I want to play.' Again, it was something that I went in and absolutely said, 'Listen, I don't want you to play him.' I told that to [Mike] Westhoff, I told that to Tony [Sparano]. He was cleared to play, but I was not going to do it. That's the truth."

Ryan said he was unaware that Tebow had suffered fractured ribs until Wednesday -- a full 10 days after the Seattle game. Tebow was listed as having an injury to his ribs, but Ryan said he and the training staff believed he was experiencing only soreness. "I don't think anybody -- not Tim or anybody else -- knew the extent," Ryan said. "When we looked into it further, that's when we found out he had the cracked ribs."

Though Ryan said after the game that Tebow's injury worsened as the week went on, he still chose not to activate McElroy -- a decision that could have been disastrous had Mark Sanchez gotten hurt. "My understanding is guys have played with this injury and, regardless of the position, guys have played through cracked ribs and things," Ryan said. "I'm not a doctor or whatever, but he was cleared to play. Let's make sure we understand that, that he was cleared to play."

Well, would Ryan have felt comfortable playing Tebow if Sanchez couldn't go? "Again, I don't know what you want me to say,'' he responded. "I know Tim was cleared to play in the game. He wanted to play. I'm not going to get into the 'what-ifs' or all that stuff. Obviously, if he was not cleared to play or they thought he could be in serious jeopardy to himself, then he never would have been activated. He never would have been cleared to play. Tim was cleared to play. He wanted to play and that's just the way it is.''

More than four hours after Ryan's conference call ended, the Jets released a timeline involving Tebow's injury. According to the team, he had X-rays after complaining of pain in his rib area. The results were negative. Tebow continued to experience soreness during the Jets' win last Sunday in St. Louis and the pain intensified Tuesday. Though he practiced fully, Tebow had an MRI and CT scan Tuesday evening, which revealed the fractures. Ryan was informed of the results that night, according to the timeline -- not on Wednesday, as he told reporters.

Tebow was activated against New England on Thursday after speaking with Ryan and undergoing pregame evaluation. According to the Jets, Tebow didn't want to receive pain-killing injections in order to play. Ryan told reporters he "absolutely'' did not want Tebow to get injections.

Sanchez will be the starter as the Jets begin preparing for the Dec. 2 game against Arizona, but Tebow's status is unclear. So McElroy will be active for Arizona, right? Said Ryan, "We'll see how the week progresses."

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