|PHILADELPHIA — The stage is set for Tim Tebow. If the former Heisman Trophy winner is going to earn a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles roster, he couldn’t ask for better circumstances.
“I think about it as, what a blessing,” Tebow said after Thursday’s practice. “What a great opportunity. I work extremely hard every day, try to be the best teammate I can, the best player. Try to make everybody else around me better as well. All of us are just trying to improve.”
QB Sam Bradford, the other Heisman winner acquired by Eagles coach Chip Kelly this offseason, has not been cleared to take part in team drills. Bradford tore his left anterior cruciate ligament last August. He can take part in limited drills, but not in many of the practice periods.
QB Mark Sanchez, Tebow’s former New York Jets teammate, is working with the first-team offense. Matt Barkley, Tebow’s prime competition for a roster spot, is also in camp.
For Tebow, this opportunity came after two seasons of being out of the league. He did some college football analysis for ESPN last season. He has appeared on “Good Morning America.” But the whole time, Tebow was working with throwing coach Tom House to try to improve his mechanics and get another chance in the NFL.
“I still competed,” Tebow said. “I trained every single day. You should have seen the Tebow Turkey Bowl. That was the craziest thing ever. You try to compete at everything you do. I’m a competitive person.
“Whether that’s training every day, whether it’s going to play hoops, throwing a ball, whether it’s what I was doing on TV with ESPN and GMA and everything, I enjoyed that and competed at it. You always want to do your best. Whatever you find to do, do it with all your might. That’s something I believe in.”
Now that he is back on the field, Tebow has a new appreciation for the game.
“All I know is that I’m enjoying this process,” Tebow said. “I’m going to take it day by day and try to get better. And also enjoy the opportunities. I think sometimes when things get taken away, you don’t realize how much fun it is to come out here and play this game. You can’t play it forever. I’m going to enjoy it.”
He has a chance with the Eagles. Kelly has seemed lukewarm about Barkley, choosing not to let the third-year quarterback from USC start the Eagles’ final regular-season game. Even though the Eagles were officially eliminated from playoff contention, Sanchez started that game against the New York Giants.
Kelly signed Tebow to a one-year contract on April 20, so the coach’s interest in Tebow is more apparent. With Bradford sidelined, Tebow will have plenty of practice opportunities to impress Kelly and the other coaches.
“I’ve always loved it,” Tebow said. “I think you appreciate it more now. I appreciate every opportunity that I get, every day of being able to come out here — no matter how hot it is, no matter how much you’ve been running, no matter how the workout was. You embrace it. You embrace that grind even more. You find joy in it, especially the hard stuff.”
Tebow was a state champion in high school, a national champion (twice) in college and in his brief playing time in the NFL took the Denver Broncos to the AFC West title and a playoff win over the defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now, after a two-year hiatus, Tebow is back with the Eagles, trying to win a job.
“I’m just out here competing, trying to get better every day,” Tebow said Thursday after an OTA practice. “Yes, I think I have gotten better. Hopefully, if you dedicate that much time, you will improve.”
Tebow spent his years out of football on television, working for both ESPN and Good Morning America, but he also kept training. He worked out with former baseball player Tom House (the guy who caught Hank Aaron’s 715th home run) to fix his motion.
“I think he looks better,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said. “You guys will see.”
Thursday was the first time Tebow did anything publicly, or at least in front of the media and its cameras, and he looked as good as you can look in an OTA.
One play stood out in particular when he ran what appeared to be a read-option play, faked a handoff up the middle and ran off right tackle for about 30 yards. His arm strength and motion looked just fine for May 28.
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For Tebow to make the Eagles final 53-man roster all he has to do is beat out Matt Barkley, a fourth-round draft pick in 2013 who has not shown a lot in his two years with the team.
“This is a great opportunity,” Tebow said. “And I’m gong to do my best to help this team anyway I can.”
While he wouldn’t say it, making the team isn’t all Tebow wants.
Chip Kelly remarks on Mark Sanchez’s second year with the Eagles Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly discusses Mark Sanchez’s condition, “He’s just a whole year advanced,” said Kelly. (Video by Saed Hindash | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
Play well in camp, see what happens with oft-injured Sam Bradford and his old friend Mark Sanchez, and maybe this is Denver all over again.
“I like this offense,” Tebow said. “It’s puts a lot of pressure on the defense,”
He likes Kelly’s innovative style as well.
“I watched him at Oregon,” he said. “I’ve always liked what he did. He plays to the players’ strength and not just the quarterback.”
Imagine Tebow taking over a struggling Eagles team in mid-season, leading them to the postseason and then beating the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs.
It would be the story of the year.
He’s done it before, sort of, and that was without being in a quarterback-friendly offense under the guidance of Kelly.