No casting questions in Patriotsland: Tom is the star, Tim a bit player
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Tom Brady walks over to a rookie receiver and, motioning emphatically with his arms, instructs the youngster on some intricacies of the offense.
Then Brady chats with his blockers, showing them some footwork he is using in the pocket they form for him. He takes a running back aside, holds out the football and shows him the exact position it will be in for a handoff.
Tim Tebow watches all of these moments — when he's not off on another field working with the scrubs and the hopefuls. Or he's practicing with the special teams as a punt protector.
The Tom and Tim Show really has no co-star. It's all about Brady with the New England Patriots, just as it has been for a dozen years. Tebow isn't even a sideshow. He's just a guy trying to prove he belongs in the NFL — as a third-string quarterback.
"Every day is a great learning opportunity," Tebow says. "Getting a chance to watch how he operates the offense, the speed in which he does things, the knowledge which he has in this offense and being in it for over a decade, and just a lot of little things about getting people lined up and just the pace in which he plays, very fast, a very quick pace. It's a great learning opportunity for me."
What it's not is a competition, in any way, shape or form. Indeed, Tebow almost certainly isn't in the running for Ryan Mallette's backup job behind Brady.
Doesn't matter how much the fans chant Tebow's name at practices, which they incessantly do. Or how many autographs he signs for his legion of followers, which he loyally does. Or how many extra passes he throws on his own when the training sessions end. This isn't Jets Redux, Tebow vs. Mark Sanchez.
So Tebow gets a few minutes here and there with Brady during practices, and they share a few words about formations and release points. More often, Brady is in discussions with an almost entirely new group of receivers, from that rookie, second-round pick Aaron Dobson, to veteran Danny Amendola, a newcomer to New England who the Patriots hope emulates Wes Welker as a target from the slot.
Brady generally spends more time talking with Mallette, and they are together for a lot more drills than Brady and Tebow share. When Tebow is included, it's usually because all three QBs are together.
Brady has no reason to feel threatened by Tebow — or any other quarterback, for that matter — and has a comfort level with the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner that only can help Tebow make the squad.
"I've really enjoyed it, he's fun to be around," Brady says, whose words don't ring hollow the way that similar comments did coming from Sanchez and the Jets in 2012, a lost season for Tebow and that team. "He's had a lot of experience and a lot of productivity, so we have good conversation. He loves playing football and those are usually the type of guys that do well.
"He's been on a few different teams. He's run some different style offenses. He's done a good job. He's come in here and Josh (McDaniels) has had some familiarity with him, coaching him in Denver. He's come in and just tried to do the best that he can do."
McDaniels was the head coach in Denver when he drafted Tebow in the first round in 2010. He was long gone from that job when Tebow helped the Broncos turn around their 2011 season, make the playoffs, then beat Pittsburgh in a wild-card game — on Tebow's touchdown pass in overtime.
Having McDaniels in New England as offensive coordinator provides Tebow with a comfort zone. When Tebow spent part of a night-time practice on special teams, McDaniels suggested it was a chance for Tebow "just to go out there and take advantage of the opportunities that he has." Then he added, "He's putting in a lot of time and effort into trying to improve his individual skill set to play the position of quarterback in our offense."
That's where Brady has been something of a mentor, albeit in meetings and film sessions more so than on the field. Because Brady recognizes Tebow is no threat to him, he can be totally accommodating with words of wisdom.
"I think for the most part it could be a read here and there, but it's also just watching him, seeing how he handles himself, how he operates this offense and how he runs it. There's a lot that I can pick up from him," Tebow says.
Still, they have little in common, which is magnified on the field. Tebow is a left-hander, Brady a righty. Those southpaw tosses tend to sail in many directions, although Tebow has thrown more pinpoint passes this preseason than he did in his entire stay with the Jets.
Brady's practice throws nearly always are on the money.
Although Tebow was a mammoth success in college ball, he's just trying to hang on in the NFL in his fourth pro season. Brady won his second of three Super Bowl rings in his fourth NFL season.
There is one link that is obvious to everyone — teammates, coaches, fans, media.
"He works hard at everything he does," Brady says of Tebow. "He has a very professional approach and wants to improve."
Adds Tebow: "He's someone that's great to be around because he's been one of the best for a long time, and he's still doing extra. He's still working hard. He still has that edge and that's awesome to be able to see."
Tebow says he and Brady spent plenty of time together in meetings and talk about non-football matters, too. McDaniels is certain that Tebow is filling those conversations with questions.
"I think Tim probably picks everybody's brain," McDaniels said. "I'm not sure exactly the volume of questions that he asks per day, but I'm sure Tom probably puts a strict limit on that."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
AP Sports Writer Howard Ulman and freelance writer Matthew Carroll contributed to this story.