Back in July 2013, as since-retired New England Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich was entering his fifth season with the team, there was short-lived speculation that the Patriots were trying out Tim Tebow at tight end.
Nobody was buying that lifelong quarterback Tebow could transition to tight end then, and Ninkovich still isn't buying it now as the Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to sign the 2007 Heisman winner as a backup tight end any day now.
"If you threw a helmet and shoulder pads on me, and I haven’t played in four years, I would be able to throw around Tim Tebow as a tight end," Ninkovich, who retired in 2017, said during his appearance on ESPN's "Get Up!" (h/t 247Sports).
The two-time Super Bowl champion continued:
"He's had his opportunity in the NFL. He was a quarterback—it didn't last very long. Then he wanted to go play baseball—OK. Go play baseball. It didn’t work out in baseball. So now his relationship with Urban Meyer gives him another chance to go play football. But it's not like that in football—and this is one reason I love football and I fell in love with the game—you can't hide. You can't hide in football. You can't go out in left field and just go somewhere. When you're on that field and you put pads on, you're exposed."
Tebow, 33, originally played quarterback under Meyer from 2006-09 with the Florida Gators. There, he won twonational championships and was named the first sophomore to claim the Heisman Trophy.
The Denver Broncos drafted the Jacksonville native 25th overall in 2010, and he showed very infrequent promise as his throwing accuracy was a glaring issue. He led the Broncos in an unlikely 2011 playoff run against all odds, but he was traded to the New York Jets in March 2012.
Tebow made 12 appearances under center for the Jets, and none of them was memorable. New York cut Tebow in April 2013, and he then had short stints trying to latch on to the Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles (2015). He did not suit up for either team and segued to four years in the New York Mets' minor-league system.
ESPN's Adam Schefter first broke the news that Tebow was sniffing around a roster spot in Jacksonville on Draft Day (April 29):
Tim Tebow recently reached out to the Jaguars and requested a tryout at the tight end position, per sources, a move many believe would have extended his NFL career had he made the transition earlier. He recently worked out with the Jaguars’ TE coach. No decision has been made.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 29, 2021
Earlier this week, those rumblings have gotten increasingly more sound.
Ninkovich is far from the first or only one to doubt Tebow's ability to make the Jaguars'—or any NFL team's—53-man roster.
USA Today's Jarrett Bell led a conversation with Hall of Fame tight ends Mike Ditka, Kellen Winslow and Shannon Sharpe as well as Super Bowl winner Rick Walker. All four men hedged their bets on whether Tebow will handle the physicality necessary to succeed at the position, but Ditka also said he would "absolutely ... give him a shot."
Check out more reaction below.
So Tebow haven’t played an NFL game in damn near a decade and it’s that simple...no hate but you got to be kidding me— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) May 11, 2021
I knew I would get your attention so read this pic.twitter.com/TX9kr1ny95— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) May 11, 2021
Tebow got a job before kaepernick. Wait til we play Jacksonville— Devin Bush ll (@_Dbush11) May 11, 2021
Why y’all tripping on Tebow? We all have homies that work out until they’re in their 30’s trying to make it to the league and very, very few make it...and they’re not Tim Freaking Tebow!— Marcellus Wiley (@marcelluswiley) May 11, 2021
But, for those fortunate few that get a shot, are you mad? Something doesn’t add up
.@ShannonSharpe on Tim Tebow signing with the Jaguars:— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) May 11, 2021
"Everyone knows why Tebow got this opportunity. He's from Jacksonville and they're trying to sell tickets. It's not because he can play." pic.twitter.com/c3fj5H7IXo
I think there’s a risk the Jaguars are taking with their locker room. Tim Tebow (as nice as he is) cleary doesn’t deserve the shot he’s getting. And I wonder what his teammates will think when a lesser player is taking up practice reps as a marketing ploy.— Chris Simms (@CSimmsQB) May 11, 2021
You shouldn’t be mad at Tebow for getting another chance in the NFL. It’s all about who you know in every occupation— Marlon Humphrey (@marlon_humphrey) May 12, 2021