Tim Tebow again speaks cautiously after being given little playing time

Tim Tebow takes his only snap against the

Tim Tebow takes his only snap against the Buffalo Bills. (Dec. 30, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Just when you thought there were no more Tim Tebow-related indignities for the Jets to endure, there it was, in the final quarter of the final game:

Brad Smith, the former maestro of the Jets' Wildcat formation, taking a snap from center and scoring on a 4-yard run for the biggest touchdown in the Bills' 28-9 victory Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Coach Rex Ryan smiled when someone pointed out the seemingly cruel twist and said, "Yeah, whatever.'' Then he added, "Brad's a great football player, as we know.''

It is something Ryan evidently does not know about Tebow.

Tebow himself remained planted where he usually is, on the sideline, from which he emerged only once, to hand off at the Buffalo 9-yard line in the second quarter.

When asked why he did not go to Tebow with Mark Sanchez struggling, Ryan said what he always says: "I'm trying to win the game, that's it. If I thought Tebow would have helped us win the game playing quarterback or defensive tackle, I would have played him.''

Tebow finished the season 6-for-8 for 39 yards passing and ran 32 times for 102 yards. Afterward he was his usual cautious self, but there was one telling sequence.

When a reporter asked if he thought he had been treated fairly by the Jets, he gave a non-answer about his "great relationships in this organization.''

OK, but were you treated fairly? "I'm not going to worry about whether I was treated fairly. You just try to worry about what situation you're in and handle it the best you can with the most character and integrity.''

But wasn't 2012 essentially a waste of a precious year of his NFL career? "I felt like it was a learning opportunity for me,'' he said. "There was a lot I'll take from it . . . I know that happened for a reason.''

The only time he laughed was when he was asked about the Jets' drama-filled season. "There definitely was, that's for sure, drama this year,'' he said. "That's for sure.''

But Tebow was dead serious when he said this year did not set him back as a player, that he still believes in his ability as a starting NFL quarterback and wants the chance to prove that next season.

The question is where. Tebow said he will take a few days to assess his season and his future. He is under contract to the Jets for two more years but is highly unlikely to return.

Fittingly, the very last question to Ryan in the Season of Tebow was about whether he expects the team's resident attention magnet to stick into 2013.

"Tim's under contract,'' he said. "So we'll see what happens.''

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