Tim Tebow had no real shot at playing against the New England Patriots.
The New York Jets’ backup quarterback has two broken ribs, and coach Rex Ryan insisted Tebow still could’ve played, but he had no intention of putting him on the field Thursday night unless it was an emergency.
Apparently, a 49-19 blowout didn’t qualify.
The Jets found out two days before the game that Tebow’s sore ribs were actually fractured when results from an MRI exam and CT scan were released. Tebow was active for the game, but Ryan kept him on the sideline.
“I think people have played with cracked ribs,” Ryan said during a conference call Friday. “Guys have played, and it was told to me that he could play. But I wasn’t going to play him unless it was an absolute emergency and that was when I would play him. It was never told to me that he could not play. In fact, it was just the opposite.”
Tebow was hurt at Seattle two weeks ago, but initial X-rays were negative. He played three offensive snaps at St. Louis last Sunday, and Ryan said that was a product of the Rams showing certain defensive looks.
But Tebow continued to experience soreness, which intensified Tuesday morning. Tebow was a full participant in practice that day, but an MRI exam and CT scan later that night revealed the fractures, of which Ryan was then informed.
Tebow was questionable for the game, and Ryan made him active against the Patriots after speaking with him, and having the quarterback undergo a pregame evaluation. Tebow also refused any pain-killing injections before the game.
“I’ve always said this: Mighty men play this game and there are guys that play where some people wouldn’t even think about stepping on the field,” Ryan said. “A lot of guys will play. In this case, there was a thing about he could protect himself and he could’ve played in that game.
“He absolutely 100 percent could’ve played in that game.”
But Tebow took no snaps on offense or special teams, and third-stringer Greg McElroy was inactive — leaving the Jets with just one healthy quarterback in their biggest game of the season.
Starter Mark Sanchez had two costly turnovers early in the game that the Patriots turned into touchdowns, and left many in the crowd at MetLife Stadium chanting for Tebow to replace him. But the backup stood on the sideline throughout, with a cap on his head and his hands in his pockets as the Patriots quickly turned the game into a laugher.
The fact he was even in uniform took some convincing by Tebow.
“I had to do a little bit of talking just to dress, but I just want to be there for my teammates in case they needed me in an emergency situation,” Tebow said after the game.
Tebow told Ryan he once played with a broken collarbone, and also broke a rib in Denver’s playoff game against New England last season. He acknowledged Thursday night that his ribs “need a little time to get better,” adding that his breathing has been affected by the injury and he isn’t sure how long he might be hindered by the injury.
“It’s like, if we absolutely 100 percent had to have him, then I would’ve played him,” Ryan said. “But like I said, I’m not the trainer. I’m not a doctor or anything else, but I’m a human and that’s why I felt for him. It was to the point where I know when the doctors are telling you he can play, the young man’s telling you he can play and knowing that he was going to be in the role he was as the backup quarterback, he had gotten reps the entire week, that was why I had him active.”
Tebow is 6 of 7 passing for 39 yards and has rushed 29 times for 87 yards while averaging about seven offensive plays per game. He also plays regularly on special teams as the personal punt protector, but said he thinks he was injured on an offensive play against the Rams.
Ryan “considered” making McElroy active against the Patriots, and the third-stringer was warming up vigorously about an hour before kickoff. Ryan would only say that “we’ll see how the week progresses” as to whether McElroy might be the backup instead of Tebow in the team’s next game against Arizona on Dec. 2.
“I’m not going to get into the ‘what-ifs’ or all that stuff,” Ryan said of keeping Tebow active against New England. “Obviously, if he was not cleared to play or they thought he could be in serious jeopardy to himself, then he never would have been activated. He never would have been cleared to play. Tim was cleared to play. He wanted to play and that’s just the way it is.”
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