The playful jabs started from five, maybe six, lockers away. New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott began digging into quarterback Tim Tebow, pestering him in a style that sent a jolt of hilarity through those close enough to witness the exchange.
The first round didn't last long -- still long enough for Scott to win with a Baby Jesus reference and a request for a baptism in the cold tub. But a few minutes later, as recounted by a present member of the New York media, Tebow walked past Scott, who was outstretched on the floor of the locker room in a facedown position.
"That's what happens when you get old," Tebow said to the 10-year veteran on Wednesday.
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Yes, chalk one up for Tebow. And chalk up this week, which still has yet to include any actual football, as the beginning of Phase Two of the Tebow Takeover in New York. It's happening, people. Without a shadow of a doubt, it's happening.
First, during an ill-conceived news conference that unnecessarily vaulted their backup quarterback into the spotlight, the Jets delivered Tebow to a fan base in a manner that surely helped his cause in becoming the starter. Now, the locker room is falling for his charm, too.
"Yes," Scott said Wednesday after first telling reporters he wasn't going to talk to them on a voluntary workout day. "I love Tebow."
You know who else loves Tebow? You know who spoke about him so glowingly, so eloquently, that his comments could have just as easily been about any team's franchise quarterback? Oh, only the best player on the Jets' roster.
"He's a born leader," cornerback Darrelle Revis told reporters, including the New York Daily News. "He really is. Very few athletes have the gift that he has. He tries to lead by example all the time and he tries to be positive, which is awesome. I think that result is in his success on the field. He came in with Denver and did unbelievable. And now he's with us.
"We're happy. We're excited for him. We're happy he'll bring his leadership qualities to this team."
Pretty bold words about a backup, no?
None of this is meant to suggest there is anything wrong with such a sentiment. If there's one easily defined quality about Tebow, it is his unbelievable ability to endear himself to all those around him. And deservedly so. No reason to fault him for it, even if it doesn't exactly put his starting quarterback in an ideal position to succeed. But let's nonetheless start calling this what it is: The most unique, unspoken quarterback competition we've seen in years. And Tebow might just already be winning it.
How is that possible, you ask? How can Tebow be winning a competition when he has yet to take a snap under center in a practice for the Jets? News flash: Tebow isn't good in practice. In fact, he's borderline terrible. If the Jets are expecting him to look remotely close to as talented as Mark Sanchez in practice, they didn't do their homework.
During one practice last year in Denver, Broncos coach John Fox was walking toward a group of reporters when his quarterback threw a pass nearby that fluttered end-over-end in the direction of an open receiver, who still easily made the catch. Fox, realizing everyone saw it, turned toward the reporters and started to chuckle.
"The damnedest thing is," Fox said, "he still completed the pass."
You see, even in Denver, even before anyone had seen Tebow's ability to win one clutch game after another last season, he still managed to jump over Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn, despite an inability to show a shred of evidence during practice to justify the move. Sources in Denver, to this day, can't justify the move other than to shrug their collective shoulders and say, "It was something we had to do." Tebow won the job because he instilled hope in a fan base; because he had a deafening presence in the locker room; and because, even if he easily outperformed Tebow in practice, Orton struggled in games.
Now he arrives in New York with a résumé that proves, even though he struggles in practice, he has an innate ability to pull out wins. He arrives in New York, where a locker room (aside from a few remaining loyalists to Sanchez) thirsts for a leader of a different caliber at the quarterback position.
Revis -- again, let's point out that he's the BEST player on the team -- clearly sees a leader of the finest quality in Tebow.
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"Some people have it. Some guys don't," Revis said, according to the Daily News. "It's the passion within ... Of him wanting to be a leader, wanting to win. You see it in him all the time ... Eating lunch, walking down the hallway -- you see it. He's just one of those guys. He's very positive. He has passion for what he does and you could see it.
"You can see it on him when you have a conversation with him. He's just a leader."
It's one thing for Tebow to win over the fan base (a very important element to the Tebow Takeover, mind you). It's another to win over his teammates, as well.
Sanchez will undoubtedly and deservedly get the opportunity to start Week 1 of the regular season. Aside from injury, nothing between now and then is going to give the coaching staff any reason (or desire) to make the move to Tebow on their own.
Meanwhile, Tebow will simply bide his time. He'll crack a few jokes to his teammates, smile for the reporters, work hard in the weight room and struggle in practice. Then, he'll wait. He'll wait for the moment, should it ever come, when the fans grow antsy, when his teammates start looking toward his locker.
When the coaching staff is forced into calling his name.
"Hey, No. 15," they'll say. "You're up."