FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Tim Tebow can accept criticisms of his NFL play. But attacks on his character are something he won't stand for.
Tebow on Wednesday denied reports -- which cited multiple Jets sources -- that he asked to sit out of the Wildcat package last week because of mounting frustrations over not getting the starting job against San Diego.
"You work your whole life to build a reputation," the barely used backup said. "Then people try to bring you down when they don't understand even what happened. It's disappointing. You just want to express your side of the story."
Tebow admitted he was frustrated when told that third-stringer Greg McElroy would start in place of Mark Sanchez. That same day, he made it clear to Rex Ryan that he wanted to be a "regular quarterback" in the offense. But Tebow denied ever asking to sit out of the Wildcat package.
"I know I didn't say that," he told reporters. "Could I have said, 'Yeah, I'm frustrated with this'? Absolutely. And I definitely did say that. But he knew that. He knew that I was frustrated with that. But I didn't ask out, or I didn't say I wouldn't do anything. That is completely, that is not the truth."
Following Sunday's media availability after the Jets' 27-17 loss to the Chargers, ESPNNewYork.com reported that an upset Tebow had opted not to be used in the Wildcat. The next day, ESPN's Adam Schefter said he spoke to Tebow "for a while" after the game and that the quarterback's relationship with Ryan was strained during the week.
Tebow, however, said he and Ryan have "a great relationship" and he doesn't think there will be any hard feelings.
The quarterback, who said he approached Ryan on Friday to clear the air and make it known that he was willing to play any role, said Wednesday that it's possible Ryan misinterpreted their Tuesday conversation.
"He knew I was frustrated, so that's a possibility," Tebow said. "But he knew Friday when we talked, too. And I don't think he thought, by any means, that I wouldn't go do anything or that I wasn't asking out of anything 'cause that's not true. I'm still on 'hands' team, and all the other special teams ready to go for the week. So I wasn't asking out of anything."
Ryan, however, didn't use Tebow in any capacity against the Chargers. The coach also didn't deny the reports.
On Wednesday, Ryan called Tebow a "full-time quarterback with running back skills." But when pressed about using Tebow in the Wildcat during Sunday's season finale in Buffalo, Ryan was noncommittal.
"I never said I was definitely going to do that," said the coach, who opted to go with slot receiver Jeremy Kerley in that role last week.
When asked why the Jets would turn to McElroy, a player with limited NFL experience, to be their starter, Tebow said he chooses not to speculate. However, he did admit he told Ryan he was "frustrated running up the middle" on practically every one of his Wildcat plays.
But more than anything, Tebow said he was most upset by claims that he "quit" on his team. "For people to not know the situation . . . and then start to bash your character and say you're phony or you're fake or you're a hypocrite, I think that's what disappointing and that's what frustrating," he said.
"It's a football game and that's one thing if you're good or bad at football. But your character, your integrity -- that's who you are as a man. And that's a lot more important . . . I take that way more serious than I'll ever take a football game.
" . . . My reputation means a lot to me."
The timing of the reports couldn't have been worse, given the holiday season, said Tebow. Asked how his Christmas was, the backup quarterback turned serious and said:
"You turn on the TV, you turn on this mess, it's frustrating . . . It's fair to say it wasn't the best."