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Tim Tebow Jacksonville Jaguars 85

The Week

Usually this column writes itself as the week goes along. When I’m out people want to talk sports and generally everybody wants to talk about the same thing. That’s one of the things I’ve always liked about living here. People like sports and they like to talk about it. And they have an opinion.

I’ve also learned that when people ask me “what do you think about such and such,” they really want to tell me what they think about a certain subject. Which is great.

This week was different though because people were all over the place talking about everything.

While the Tim Tebow story seemed like last week’s news, there were still a lot of fans who wanted to voice their opinion about that.

As expected, most weren’t sure about what he might do but knew enough about Tim and his background to have an opinion. And it always amazes me how pointed people are when it comes to talking about Tebow. He really raises people’s emotions one way or another.

One guy stopped me mid-week on the way to the first tee and told to me to advise the Jaguars not to sign Tebow.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Too much of a distraction,” he said.

When I referred to last week’s column where I wrote that Tim would bring Meyer’s ideas to the locker room and he might take some of the heat off of Trevor Lawrence he wasn’t buying it.

“Nah, he said, “Plus they took the wrong quarterback anyway,” he responded dismissively.

“I guess we’re done here,” I said, joking with his friends.

“He’s an Ohio State guy anyway,” his playing partner said, pointing to the “Buckeye” head cover on his driver.

Not taking Trevor Lawrence would have started some kind of insurrection here in town. Lawrence is a generational player who also seems to have all of the intangibles.

Watching him practice this week it’s obvious he’s deep into the Jaguars playbook already and has the physical talent to compete. Justin Fields might turn out to be a great player as well. He seems to have all of the tools. Even fans of “Runner-up U,” as Steve Spurrier dubbed the Buckeyes, know that. Plus I always think of Fields as a Georgia guy anyway. Kirby Smart just couldn’t see what he had at the time.

There was some mild talk about baseball this week and mostly about the number of no-hitters being thrown. Six so far this year, with the full-season record only being seven.

At least one pitcher, perennial Dodger All-Star and former Jacksonville Sun Clayton Kershaw, doesn’t think much of the lack of hitting. He thinks fans want to see more offense and said Major League Baseball ‘Missed the mark’ with whatever changes they made to the baseball in the off-season trying to cut down on the number of home runs.

“I do know that strikeouts are the same,” he said. “I think I saw some stats for April that it was the worst hitting month in the history of something. No-hitters are cool. I have all the respect in the world for Corey Kluber and Bum and all those guys that have thrown no-hitters. But to have one happen every night, it seems like it’s probably not good for the game. Fans want to see some hits.”

Kershaw is right, and former Major League catcher Rick Wilkins agrees.

“The way the game is played right now, it lends itself to exactly that,” he explained. “Hard-hit balls somewhere isn’t what’s being taught. Everybody’s talking about launch angle and uppercuts. You’ll see a lot of one-run or no-runs scored for a lot of teams.

“That oh-and-two swing is the same as that oh-and-oh swing,” former Jacksonville Suns owner Peter Bragan, Jr. agreed. “Nobody chokes up and just tries to put the ball in play anymore with two strikes. Agents have told them ‘moving runners over doesn’t get you paid, hitting home runs gets you paid.’”

Some people were fired up about the PGA Championship this week, the tournament moving to May and being played at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

But they couldn’t find it on television.

“Where’s the golf,” my friend Keith called to ask.

“It’s on ESPN+,” I told him.

“What’s that?” he asked

“Exactly,” I said with a laugh. “Nobody knows what it is or where it is.”

We’ve been so used to seeing early week or early round coverage on The Golf Channel or regular ESPN that to have to go find it wasn’t a good decision by the PGA of America.

Playing at Kiawah was a good call though. If only because most of the golf fans who wanted to talk about it this week were hoping for some tough conditions.

“I hope it blows like crazy there,” Keith added, having played the Ocean Course in tough conditions. “I hope they shoot a million,” he said.

That seemed to be the consensus and that’s changed a bit. Golf fans used to want to see lots of birdies and great playing but players have gotten so long, thanks to training and equipment, that par fives are nearly a thing of the past.

“I heard (Tony) Finau say he had to hit 4-iron into a couple of par 4’s at Kiawah and he hadn’t done that in a while,” my friend John said derisively. “Waah, Waah, Waah, cry me a river.”

Could it be that players have gotten so good that they’ve lost touch with some fans because the game they’re playing is so different?

“It sure elevates The Players,” my friend Pedro said about the PGA’s move to May. “The Players, The Masters, The PGA, The US Open, The Open all a month apart. Start calling The Players a Major,” he said with a smile.

And as the week came to a close, the conversation came back to Tim Tebow. Tebow signed a contract with the Jaguars and showed up at practice on Thursday wearing number eighty-five.

“He’ll have to show he at least belongs out there,” former Jaguars linebacker Tom McManus said on a podcast he and fellow Jaguars linebacker Lonnie Marts and I do occasionally. “He can’t go out there and fall on his face. I imagine he’ll do alright, he’s kept himself in good shape.”

“But he’ll have to earn it, and in the locker room too,” Marts added.

When I noted that Tim is familiar with the environment in an NFL locker room, Lonnie said that’ll be a factor.

“He knows how to act and what guys are like,” Marts said. “There’s guys who will say ‘he’s only here because he’s Urban’s guy’ and he’ll hear that. But if he runs and catches and studies and does what he normally does, he’ll earn their respect. And that’s important.”

One thing I saw that nobody mentioned was Travis Etienne’s combination of speed and quickness that he’s shown on the field in rookie camp and OTA’s. He’s the touchdown threat every time he touches the ball the Jaguars have been missing for a while.

If that pans out, now that would be something people would be talking about.

Trevor Lawrence Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor and Tebow A Jaguars Solution

In a conversation this week, I had a couple of Jaguars fans tell me they thought that Head Coach Urban Meyer was “calculating.”

“That’s a good word,” I told them.

It really does seem to be part of Meyer’s personality, and one of things that, to me, is unappealing.

But that calculating trait can’t be overstated on the plus side when it comes to potentially signing Tim Tebow this week. Meyer said yesterday after the rookie camp practice that the staff would meet today to decided what to do with Tim. Which for the Jaguars, Meyer, Jacksonville and Tim, signing him to a contract would be a good thing.

All of the animus toward Tebow, Meyer and the Jaguars comes from the outside. It should make those of us who live here, and especially those who have covered the NFL laugh out loud.

How often was Bill Parcell’s lauded by the media for bringing ‘his guys’ along to whatever team he was coaching at that point. Dave Meggett, Keith Byars and even Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe were among those added to Parcell’s rosters in his four-team, nineteen-year NFL coaching career. They got his message across in the locker room.

Putting Tim on the team isn’t about what he can contribute starting September 12th, it’s about what he can contribute between now and the opener on September 12th.

It’s been hilarious to hear all of the angst and the so-called ‘experts’ weighing in on Tim’s chances and his potential ability as a tight end. Anybody who’s been around Tebow knows he’ll give it his all and see what happens. He’s had a baseball career, he’s been in broadcasting and he still wants to be a football player. In Jacksonville, in the NFL.

He might make the team, and he might not. But bringing him in is a calculated, correct move.

He and Meyer are tight. I’ve been in enough situations with both of them to see the two of them together after practice, walking down the hall after a big victory, standing behind the wall together waiting to enter a press conference to see it.

It’s not your typical player-coach situation. Tim is committed to Meyer and will do what he’s asked. He’s not taking a roster spot from anybody. His chances to make the team are about the same as any other ninetieth player on any NFL training camp roster. He is in the right situation for this team at this time with this coach.

We all also know that the perception of Tebow outside of the people who know him is very different than who he actually is. His commitment to evangelizing his faith can be a turn-off to some but he’s about as straightforward a person that you’ll ever meet.

I was at the Super Bowl a couple of years ago with Peter King, the well-known NFL writer, when he turned to me and said, “I just spent an hour with Tim Tebow.”

“How’d that go,” I asked.

“Is that real,” Peter said, walking down the hallway, knowing I’ve covered Tim and gotten to know him well over the last twenty years.

“You mean who he is?” I replied.

“Yeah, he’s the most earnest and honest person I’ve ever talked with. Is that an act?” he asked, clearly astonished.

“No, that’s who he is,” I said with a chuckle. “It’s not an act, he’s as transparent as it gets. He talks it, but he also walks it. Nothing hidden there.”

“Amazing,” King said as his voice trailed off.

And don’t think Meyer hasn’t thought about the amount of media glare that can be deflected off his new quarterback by putting Tebow on the roster. If Tim’s not there it’s Trevor Time, all the time.

With Tim there, he’ll take some of the media heat just by being. And the amount of media that will be around the Jaguars this summer will be nothing new for Tebow. That’s been his life since leaving high school. Trevor has dealt with a lot of that already, but if he needs any advice on that front, he should look no further than his own locker room to the guy wearing the number one less than his.

Occasionally you’ll hear a coach talk about his own team in terms of the “top” or the “bottom” of the roster. Players are ranked within their own team according to their contributions, usually on the field.

If the Jaguars have ninety players on their roster when training camp opens, it might be fair to say that Trevor Lawrence is at the top of the roster, and perhaps Tim Tebow, about to turn thirty-four years old and five years removed from the league, is at the bottom.

If Tim is the ninetieth player on the roster, what’s expected of somebody who fills that spot? There have been fourth or fifth-string tight ends who have been the ninetieth player on the roster before. They’ll get reps, play scout team and get a chance to show what they can do. Sometimes they make it. Keenan McCardell might have been the ninetieth player on the Washington roster when they drafted him in the twelfth round in 1991 out of UNLV. McCardell went on to become a starter, a Pro Bowl player and won a Super Bowl ring in his seventeen-year career.

Tebow will do all of the things that the ninetieth player on the roster is supposed to do, hustle, fill-in, get a few reps and show what he can do.

But he’ll check a lot of boxes that no other 90th player on any team will. Tebow is on the Jaguars because of his previous relationship with Head Coach Urban Meyer. That’s not new nor is it news. Happens all the time. Especially in the NFL.

Meyer is the coach in Jacksonville and Tim is from here. It’s the only confluence of events that could put Tebow back in the NFL nearing his 34th birthday. Don’t expect Tim to have those locker room exhortations you’ve seen matriculating around the internet from his college days. He’s had success, he’s had failures, he’s gotten married, and he knows the kind of environment that exists in an NFL locker room.

He’ll go about his business, but most importantly, he knows what Urban Meyer expects from the players on his football team. He’s lived it and just by being there and doing, the other players trying to make this team will take their cues on how to get it done.

Does Meyer like it when you show up a half-hour early or does he think that’s patronizing? Does he want two extra reps or four? Tebow has all of the answers to those questions just by being part of the grind.

There were a full group of rookies at their first minicamp as Jaguars yesterday. I’m sure all of them were fast, motivated and trying to shine. But nobody can tell you much about most of them.

They can tell you how Trevor Lawrence walked onto the field, how he put his helmet on, how he took it off, how he drank water and oh yes, they can tell you how he threw the football from the quarterback position.

The answer to that is very well.

Here’s another place I agree with Urban Meyer: You can watch all the tape you want but there’s nothing like standing near a quarterback to see and hear how the ball comes out of his hand.

There’s a singing sound that comes off the ball when somebody can really “spin it” in the modern-day vernacular. You don’t hear that very often and very rarely have we heard that at Jaguars practice.

No more.

“It was really good”, my colleague and friend Mike DiRocco of ESPN.com said with a laugh. “He was limited in his throws (Thirty to forty according to Meyer) but when the ball comes out of his hand, it’s crisp.”

“He’s as good as advertised, on target and on the money,” my trusted colleague here at the Times Union, John Reid said after practice.

Then John gave the assessment of seeing thousands of footballs thrown in practice that only comes from an experienced reporter’s career.

“It comes out spinning and it’s accurate,” John said. “The ball is there when the receiver makes his cut. He doesn’t have to wait on it and it hits him right in the numbers.”

“Oh yeah,” DiRocco agreed. “It’s very different than the quarterback stuff we’ve seen here in the last couple of years. Spinning, crisp, rollouts, drop-backs, didn’t matter.”

In other words, that thing ‘sings’ coming out of his hand. And there was one more thing both Mike and John wanted to relate:

“He looks the part,” Mike said alluding to the whole package of quarterback and first pick overall. “We’ve seen something different before, this was something totally different.”

“He’s got that persona,” John added. “He went from one drill to the next with no problem. He’s the tallest guy out there, he looks big time. He has the intangibles. He’s cool and composed, like he’s done this before. He has the presence of a leader.”