If Bill Belichick does indeed hate Tim Tebow, he has a funny way of showing it.
About a month after a report by Yahoo's Mike Silver indicated that the Patriots would not sign Tebow, an unrestricted free agent, because Belichick "'hates' Tebow as a player" (and less than a week after Belichick refuted that comment), the New England Patriots pulled Tebow from NFL purgatory and reportedly signed him to a deal.
The move reunites Tebow with current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was the Broncos' head coach from 2009-10 and traded up to nab Tebow at No. 25 overall in the '10 draft.
It looked for a long while this offseason like Tebow's NFL career might be over, as rumors of the former Heisman winner possibly heading to the CFL or Arena Football swirled. Tebow spent the 2012 season languishing on the New York Jets' sideline, occasionally replacing Mark Sanchez as a run-first QB in short-yardage situations. He threw just eight passes last season, completing six, while rushing for 102 yards.
Those numbers were well down from 2011, a season in which Tebow added to his lore by posting a 7-4 record as the Broncos' starter; he also threw a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime to give Denver a playoff win over Pittsburgh.
The Broncos rewarded Tebow's unexpected success by signing Peyton Manning to a lucrative contract, then shipping Tebow to New York.
New England, though, may have been atop the list of ideal situations for Tebow to land this offseason. Tom Brady is the clear No. 1 there, meaning that Tebow likely will start training camp battling Ryan Mallett for the backup job -- and also that there will be no quarterback controversy, as in New York. The Patriots also have a history of utilizing their offensive weapons in creative ways, which could play into Tebow's hands, even if the Jets' attempts to use him as a change-of-pace quarterback flopped.
Notably, the Patriots are shorthanded at tight end for the immediate future, with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski rehabbing from offseason surgery; Gronkowski's status for the start of the regular season is in jeopardy, too. Tebow has no NFL experience at a tight end position (and he's never caught a pass at this level), but the Patriots could test him out as a versatile H-back, at least while Gronkowski is sidelined.
Of course, Tebow may simply be viewed as an upgrade at the third QB spot over Mike Kafka -- the Patriots released Kafka to make room for Tebow on the roster, according to multiple reports. Though no financial details of Tebow's deal have been released as of yet, New England no doubt left itself an out should Tebow fail to acclimate himself to a new team.
He will have a chance to do so quickly, as the Patriots open a mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, with Tebow expected to be present.
Tebow should feel a small degree of comfort thanks to McDaniels' presence. McDaniels was ousted midway through the 2010 season, and it was new coach John Fox and ex-Broncos coordinator Mike McCoy that helped orchestrate Tebow's 2011 rise. McDaniels, though, banged the drum loudly for Tebow heading into the 2010 draft, then thrust him into the lineup for three starts late in his rookie season.
It almost goes without saying that McDaniels was consulted before this signing, and he may have some clever ways to get Tebow the football within the constraints of the Patriots' offense.
However, since Tebow has arrived in the NFL, he still has yet to show if what he provides on the field is positive enough to offset the stir he creates off of it. The Patriots' locker room could be strong enough to handle the Tebow circus, thanks to players like Brady, Logan Mankins and other veterans, and if nothing else, New England ought to be better prepared for what's ahead than the Jets.
But even for a team that's been through the ringer like this one, Tebow brings a new and different level of attention. Something about Tebow convinced the Patriots that all the extra trouble will be worth it. This may be Tebow's last shot at sticking in the NFL. He better hope he can stay on Belichick's good side.