Tim Tebow earning praise from Jets teammates, on and off the field

Tim Tebow runs during Jets training camp at Tim Tebow runs during Jets training camp at SUNY Cortland. (July 29, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- This time Tim Tebow kept on his sweaty, sleeveless gray practice shirt and walked slowly off the practice field, disappointing photographers lined up to capture another big moment.

But he did stop briefly Sunday to kibitz with the people who took the instantaneously infamous pictures of him running off the field topless the day before. As he strode by, he turned and said, "I didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal.''

Hah! Teammates pounced as gleefully as did tabloid newspapers.

"Oh yeah, oh my God,'' linebacker Bart Scott said. "The slow-motion run. I've never seen anybody decide to take their shirt off in the rain. Usually, I put stuff on. But maybe it was Holy Water, I don't know."

Third-string quarterback Greg McElroy laughed and said: "I saw a shirtless guy start over there and run all the way through here in the pouring rain. Of course we joked about it.''

McElroy said fellow quarterbacks sarcastically thanked Tebow for keeping his shirt on during a meeting, at which time, "Sure enough, there it came off and he sat shirtless for about 30 minutes.''

It appeared to be both an acknowledgement of the ongoing silliness surrounding Tebow and, more importantly, an apparent attempt by Tebow to be a good sport and one of the guys. He appears to be succeeding at the latter.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"It's so friendly, it's unbelievable,'' McElroy said of the vibe in the quarterbacks' meeting room, which includes Mark Sanchez, Tebow, Matt Simms (son of Phil) and coach Matt Cavanaugh.

"It's a great amount of fun, especially when we're in the room. We're giving each other a hard time. We're laughing. We're joking. We're making fun of each other for bad plays. Then when we get on the field, it's all business.''

Sunday was McElroy's second straight day as unofficial quarterback spokesman, with Sanchez and Tebow unavailable to reporters. But he didn't seem to mind. He said he has gained an appreciation for Tebow that is different from the days when he looked across the field at him as an SEC rival when Alabama met Florida.

"It's great being in the same room with him, seeing his attention to detail, seeing how he works,'' McElroy said. "I've learned a lot from him and it's been a pleasure to witness firsthand.''

That's all nice, but Tebow's progress on the field continues to be fitful. He had an uneven Saturday and it got worse Sunday. But at least he had company. He and Sanchez each completed only one pass in 11-on-11 drills.

When someone asked coach Rex Ryan if he thought his top two passers struggled after going a combined 2-for-14, he said sarcastically, "No, I thought they were terrific.'' Then he added, "I hope we can run the ball . . . It was a tough day, there is no question about it.''

Tebow was off-target all day with throws, drawing his biggest reactions from fans on a couple of nifty scrambles.

Said receiver Chaz Schilens: "It's still a work in progress, honestly. I don't think he's got the timing down like Mark does, but he's working on it just like we all are . . . And when plays break down, he's able to make stuff happen. I'll take it.''

Schilens is capable of providing insight into more than just Tebow's progress. He happens to be his roommate. So, Chaz, America wants to know: What is it like living with Tebow?

Schilens said he is "midlevel'' on the neatness scale, with the occasional piece of clothing landing on the floor, and he stays up late studying but still is awake by 6.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"He's cool; he's a down-to-earth, hard-working good guy,'' Schilens said. "I just tell him, 'I don't know how you do it.' I've never seen anything like it.

"Fans out here love him. From the moment he steps on the field, people just are fascinated by him, and rightly so. He's a good dude, just a real people person.''

Schilens got autograph requests from friends and family when they learned of his room assignment. "They're all just excited,'' he said. "Everyone loves Tim. It's just a chance to get to know a cool dude.''

It's all part of the process for the new superstar in town, and everyone around him. Said Scott: "You see the cameras that follow him; half you [reporters] wouldn't be here if he wasn't here. But he takes it all in stride. It never affects his relationships with his teammates. We understand it comes with the territory. We're able to deal with it. It's New York. We can handle it.''

You also may be interested in: