FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Tim Tebow and Tom Brady took turns, zipping passes over the middle and lofting tosses toward the corner of the end zone.
On his first day with the Patriots on Tuesday, the New England newcomer was just a backup quarterback, No. 5 on his helmet and number three on the depth chart.
And when practice ended, Tebow talked – for all of 40 seconds.
“First and foremost, I just want to thank the Patriots for giving me an opportunity,” Tebow said.
For now, that’s all it is.
No promises of trick plays. No huge media circus. Not even a guaranteed job.
To coach Bill Belichick, the focus is on football. And where Tebow fits in, well, the Patriots plan to find out.
“I don’t know. We’ll see,” Belichick said.
Two people with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press that Tebow was signed for 2 years, but no assured money. One person says he will make the veteran’s minimum salary, $630,000 in 2013, with incentives.
The Patriots already might be making money on their investment. The team’s pro shop was taking pre-orders for jerseys with his last name – and no number – on the back. Prices ranged from $69.95 to $99.95, with free shipping.
Tebow prefers the number 15, but second-string quarterback Ryan Mallett already has it.
During practice, the three QBs worked under the close scrutiny of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the head coach with the Denver Broncos in 2011 when Tebow enjoyed his greatest pro success.
They all threw good spirals, although Tebow’s velocity and delivery appeared to be the slowest.
Asked how much McDaniels’ background with Tebow contributed to the signing, Belichick shed no light.
“I don’t know,” Belichick said.
About 10 minutes before the workout ended, Patriots owner Robert Kraft walked up to Tebow and shook hands. Kraft put his arm around Tebow’s back and Tebow put his arm on Kraft’s shoulder. They chatted for a few minutes as Tebow threw.
“It’s such an honor to be a Patriot and play for coach Belichick and coach McDaniels, learn under Tom and to be a part of this great franchise and part of a very successful franchise,” Tebow said. “I found that out firsthand. I lost to them several times.”
Tebow then strolled off without taking questions.
Quite a contrast to Tebow’s introductory press session with the New York Jets last year. He spoke for 30 minutes at that gathering, moved from the normal media room to the team’s field house because the turnout was so large.
At 25, Tebow owns a Heisman Trophy, two college national championship rings and one NFL playoff victory, plus a global following based as much on his beliefs as his ballplaying.
With a rack of Super Bowl trophies in their possession, the Patriots want wins, not headlines.
Tebow joined the perennial playoff team for the first practice of its 3-day minicamp. It’s uncertain whether the left-handed QB will last until training camp in late July or the first exhibition game on Aug. 9 at Philadelphia. And the season opener in Buffalo on Sept. 8 is still nearly 3 months away.
By that time, he might even have another position – H-back, tight end or punt protector.
But at least he has an NFL job after signing with the Patriots on Tuesday. That prospect seemed to be a long shot when no team hurried to sign him after the Jets cut him on April 29, 3 days after they drafted quarterback Geno Smith out of West Virginia.
Belichick, as usual, was brief in his hopes for Tebow.
“We’ll try to do what we think is best for our football team,” Belichick said.
Might he be used on special teams on defense?
“We’ll see. I don’t know.”
What about people who have questioned his ability to play quarterback in the NFL?
“I’ve already said that,” Belichick he said. “I’ve answered the question twice. He’s a talented player who is smart and works hard.”
Tebow’s former coach with the Jets wasn’t about to offer any advice to Belichick, either.
“Oh, please, he’s not going to listen to me, and he shouldn’t,” Rex Ryan said. “He’ll just do what he does, and that makes sense.”
Ryan never found a way to use Tebow productively after the Jets acquired him to great fanfare following his trade from the Denver Broncos in March 2013.
“I’m happy for the young man to get another opportunity in the league,” Ryan said. “Obviously, Tim had more success in Denver than he did here.”
New York went 6-10 last season, while New England was 12-4 and advanced to the AFC title game. With the Jets, Tebow completed six of eight passes and ran 32 times for 102 yards.
Tebow had a lot more success in college at Florida. With the Patriots, he’s reunited with two former college teammates, tight end Aaron Hernandez and linebacker Brandon Spikes.
“It’s good to see a Gator in the building,” Spikes said. “I was happy for him. He got to get his job back and ... come out here and compete, so that’s good to see him smile, that big smile I’m used to seeing the last few years down in Florida.”
Hernandez caught 111 passes in three years as Tebow’s college teammate and was surprised when the Patriots signed him.
“I was a little shocked and I was happy because we had a long relationship in college and it’s good to play with a college teammate again,” Hernandez said. “Great teammate. Great leader.”
Brady is still one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, so there will be no quarterback controversy as there was in New York, where fans clamored for Tebow to replace a struggling Mark Sanchez.
On the Patriots, he’s merely a player looking to compete for a roster spot.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Tebow said. “I’m looking forward to working hard every single day and getting a lot better and learning under some great people. So that’s all I got, but thank you all so much and God bless. I’m sure we’ll be talking more soon.”
AP sports writers Larry Lage in Detroit, Dennis Waszak Jr. in Florham Park, N.J., and Barry Wilner in New York contributed to this report.