Tim Tebow loves the competition

Jets quarterback Tim Tebow looks for a receiver

Jets quarterback Tim Tebow looks for a receiver during practice on the opening day of training camp. (July 27, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Bob Glauber

Newsday columnist Bob Glauber Bob Glauber

Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He

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CINCINNATI

If you think Tim Tebow doesn't put much stock in what happens in the preseason, you don't know the Jets' backup quarterback very well.

Regular season, playoffs, preseason or practice, it doesn't matter. For Tebow, it's all important.

Case in point: Earlier this week, as he prepared to make his Jets debut against the Bengals in Friday night's preseason opener, Tebow flashed back to another preseason game against Cincinnati. His eyes lit up as he recalled the moment.

This was Tebow's first appearance in an NFL game, and it came in the same stadium he'll play in for his Jets unveiling.

On the final play of the Broncos-Bengals preseason opener in 2010, Tebow took the snap from the Bengals' 7, dropped back in the pocket and bolted for the end zone. At the moment he got to the goal line, he collided with two Bengals defenders and scored the touchdown.

Forget the fact the Broncos lost the game, 33-24. The play still resonates with the third-year quarterback.

"Meaningless last play of the game, maybe four seconds left, three seconds on the clock, and I drop back and I don't have anyone and so I'm scrambling around," Tebow said after practice the other day.

"I run and I dive into the end zone and have a big collision. I think one of the safeties got a concussion on that play, I tore an oblique and another linebacker, the three of us hit. I was just thinking, 'I got to be the first one to get up.' "

Yeah, it all matters to Tebow. Every last detail. The man forgets nothing.

"I remember," he said, "just because I'm super-competitive."

The uniform is different and the circumstances are, too, but the competitiveness will be the same when Tebow walks into the Jets' huddle at Paul Brown Stadium.

He'll take over from starter Mark Sanchez -- most likely in the second and third quarters -- and will give the Jets their first glimpse of the player they believe can add a unique dimension to the offense.

Even if it means taking a calculated risk that Tebow's presence won't mess with Sanchez's confidence and create more controversy on a team that has had its fill of tumult since Rex Ryan took over as head coach in 2009.

The Jets will not show their hand with Tebow in this one. Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano no doubt will keep the playbook vanilla and hold back their true plans for Tebow until the games start to count next month.

But if we've learned anything about Tebow in his two seasons in the NFL and the years before that at Florida, we know he will flash some of the special qualities that intrigued the Jets so much that they swung the controversial deal with the Broncos in the spring.

Take it from Ryan and Sparano, both of whom have been on the losing end of Tebow's magic.

"I've had that glimpse up close and in person," said Sparano, whose Dolphins were beaten by Tebow's Broncos last season. "I believe the score was 15-0, with not much time left in the game. And I think the people here have had that glimpse. So we've seen it. That's a lot of the guys here."

In Tebow's first start last season, Sparano had what he thought was a comfortable lead late in the fourth quarter, but Tebow rallied Denver with two touchdown passes in the final 2:44 to force overtime. Sparano stood in disbelief as Broncos kicker Matt Prater's 52-yard field goal gave Denver an 18-15 win.

Ryan had a similar feeling of disbelief as Tebow crushed the Jets' hopes late in their game against Denver last season. Tebow orchestrated a dramatic last-minute drive to give Denver a 17-13 win.

On the winning play, Ryan dialed up an all-out blitz -- and Tebow beat it, running for a 20-yard touchdown with less than a minute left to finish off a 95-yard drive.

Now Sparano and Ryan have Tebow on their side, and they plan to take advantage of his unique talents. They'll get their first look at him in green and white against the Bengals.

"I think Tim and everybody else needs the opportunity to go against live competition," Ryan said. "I think that's where he excels."

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