EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 5, 2013

Tebow pumping life into Pats preseason

On Pro Football
Hector Longo

---- — FOXBORO — As a pro football fan, can you ask for anything more than an August that matters?

That is the least that Bill Belichick could do after what has been a tumultuous offseason surrounding the New England Patriots.

And the coach has done that. But it’s not the rejuvenated defense folks want to glimpse at or the reloading receiver corps.

Tim Tebow has Gillette Stadium, or at least the outer grounds here, buzzing. The countdown to Friday night’s preseason opener in Philadelphia has begun.

Just a year ago, New Englanders mocked the New York Jets for allowing Tebow’s lengthy shadow to hover over the quarterback joke that has grown into Mark Sanchez.

Now, Tebow has been embraced, not just by the fans but by the franchise itself. Tebow has drawn his own personal assistant, thanks to Belichick bringing 14-year veteran coach Brian Daboll back to the fold. The two have been inseparable at camp.

“He’s been great,” said Tebow. “He’s a very bright football mind, offensive mind.”

Belichick has been mum on Tebow. Despite the former Florida legend owning an 8-6 record as a pro starter — all in Denver — he won’t gain a leg up on Ryan Mallett as Tom Brady’s backup unless he earns it.

For Tebow, who lived through a weekly media circus as Sanchez, Rex Ryan and the Jets imploded again last year, the Patriots offer refreshing change.

His smile is back. His drive to disprove the naysayers — those who ignore the fact that he took a bad Denver team into the playoffs just as far in 2011 as Peyton Manning did a year later — is back. And Tebow looks pretty darn good.

“I’m feeling good, working hard, trying to get better every single day,” said Tebow, reciting the Patriots’ code to a tee. “That’s our goal.”

Greatness understands greatness, and Brady, while not yet ready to surrender his starting job, has embraced Tebow in his bid for a roster spot behind No. 12.

“He’s a great guy, fun to be around,” said Brady. “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 done a good job.”

Brady, with all his responsibilities as the starter on a team where he might not be able to pick his receivers out in a crowd, has gone out of his way as a tutor.

“He’s been a big help,” said Tebow. “We’ve been working out here every day together, trying to push each other. That’s awesome.”

Now the fun begins, though.

Mallett vs. Tebow for QB2 should be a brawl.

Remember, Mallett enters his third pro season with folks knowing very little about him. Strong arm, checkered college reputation, great size and reported nose for the game. He’s thrown four pro passes.

He is the anti-Tebow, which makes this upcoming clash too special.

Sorry, but with all the NFL stereotyping clutter tossed Tebow’s way, I’m rooting for the guy whose top asset is the fact that he’s a winner.

Clearly, Tebow has become a hit with the New England fans first, at a time when this football team – and the NFL for that matter – could use an ambassador or two.

“It means a lot to be able to make someone smile or make someone’s day with an autograph or what have you,” said Tebow. “You want to be that good role model, someone that young boy or young girl can look up to.”

Talk about refreshing, like an evening August shower after a hot summer day. August is again football season here, and we have Tebow to thank for that.

PATS OFF TO PHILLY After this morning's practice in Foxboro, the Patriots will head off to Philadelphia for where they will take on joint practices with Chip Kelly's Eagles on Tuesday and Wednesday. Friday night at 7:30, those teams will collide for in the exhibition opener for both in Philly.