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It's Tebow Time for Patriots; Wed. notes

Posted Dec 14, 2011

The Denver QB is the hot topic in the Patriots locker room. Plus, more news and notes from Wednesday, December 14 at Gillette Stadium.

He’s on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, with the simple, but attention-grabbing headline “TEBOW!”

He’s the talk of the NFL, surpassing even the undefeated Green Bay Packers in talk-radio debates coast-to-coast.

And this week, he’s New England’s opponent. So, like it or not, the Patriots find themselves unavoidably being swept up in the Tim Tebow phenomenon.

Some players, like tight end Aaron Hernandez, are used to this level of intense scrutiny. Hernandez was one of Tebow’s prime targets at the University of Florida

“He brought a lot of energy to the game,” Hernandez said, recalling his college days with the Denver Broncos QB.

"He’s a good player, and he can do a lot things and we’ve just got to be prepared for him to either run it or pass it ... He’s a leader and I’m sure he still is. He keeps plays alive and he’s a winner.”

Tebow and Hernandez could still be teammates today, if the former Heisman Trophy winner had slipped past the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He and head coach Bill Belichick had a highly publicized dinner meeting during the pre-draft scouting process in Boston’s North End.

“It looks about the same as he did in college,” Belichick observed Wednesday. “He can run, he can throw, he’s got good poise, doesn’t turn the ball over, makes good decisions.”

Belichick bristled at the notion that Tebow’s unorthodox throwing mechanics make him an inaccurate passer.

“I don’t agree with any of that,” he insisted. “I think his passing is good. It was good in college; he was a very productive passer in college and he’s thrown the ball well in this league. Throws it good short, throws it intermediate, can throw it deep. He’s got some very good throws, as good as anybody that you want to put in there.”

The difficulty the Patriots will face in practice this week, Belichick acknowledged, will be finding someone on their roster who can replicate what Tebow does – rushing and passing – on the scout team.

“Yeah, we won’t be able to get the same look that we’ll get on Sunday, no question,” Belichick lamented.

"You’ve just got to prepare this week like any other week,” linebacker Rob Ninkovich maintained. “Know his strengths and his weaknesses and know that he’s a good quarterback and he can make plays with his feet. From the first quarter to the second quarter just play the same way, keep him in the pocket and don’t let him beat you with his feet. Play him tight."

Though he and his Broncos are New England’s opponents this week, the Patriots admit to being impressed with what the second-year player has been able to accomplish in such a short time.

Evidence of that came just last Sunday. On the Patriots’ charter flight home from Washington, D.C., nearly every player and staff member on board had their individual seat TVs tuned to the end of the Bears-Broncos game. Part of that, of course, was because the game was live and the Broncos were next on New England’s schedule.

Part of it, too, was the Tebow factor.

“You win that many games, and put your team in position to do what they've been able to do, I think if it happened here they'd be doing the same thing,” remarked left tackle Matt Light. “Obviously, he's gotten things straightened out over there and put them in a really good position.”

“Yeah, I think it’s cool for the league. I’m definitely a supporter,” added punter Zoltan Mesko, who faced Tebow in college. “I mean, he’s done a lot for the game this year. I’m just ignoring the noise [this week].”

“I appreciate good quarterback play,” said QB Tom Brady. “I’m always watching around the league, whether it’s Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees having phenomenal years. Obviously, Tim is having a great year. You watch guys and the way that they perform under pressure and it says a lot about who they are and the way their teammates feel about them.”

Adding to the difficulty of this week’s match-up, of course, is the Patriots’ history in Denver.

The Broncos hold a 27-16 lifetime advantage over the Patriots, with half of New England’s wins ever having come in the Mile High City. Of those, though, six were won during the 1960s. The other two came in 2000 and ’03, both during Belichick’s tenure as head coach.

“It’s a big challenge,” Brady conceded. “It’s going to be a very electric environment out there. We’ve had some really great games against the Broncos over the years. I'm sure this will be no different.”

For details on today’s Patriots practice, please visit the PFW blog.