FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Tim Tebow has been criticized for years about his quarterback skills, his arm and how he throws.
He refuses to accept anyone calling him a quitter or phony.
The New York Jets backup quarterback insisted Wednesday that he didn't ask out of running the team's wildcat plays last week, but acknowledged what he said in a meeting with coach Rex Ryan might have been misinterpreted as such.
"I never said, 'Hey, I don't want to do anything or I won't do anything,'" Tebow said. "That wasn't the talk at all. He knows that, and everybody on this team knows that. I'd never not do something if I was asked, and I think that's what's disappointing about the whole situation, people saying, 'You quit,' or, 'You didn't do this.' It was not it at all.
"It was just me asking to get an opportunity to play the position I love, which is quarterback. It wasn't me asking out of anything."
Last Tuesday, Ryan chose to go with third-stringer Greg McElroy over Tebow in place of the benched Mark Sanchez for Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers. After hearing the news, Tebow went to Ryan to discuss the situation and told him he wanted to be "a regular quarterback."
"I was definitely disappointed and frustrated," Tebow said.
ESPN New York first reported Sunday that Tebow had then asked out of the wildcat, and a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed that to The Associated Press. But Tebow thinks it was a situation in which he wishes he was "more clear" when he initially spoke with Ryan.
Tebow realized that Ryan might have misinterpreted what he said when they met when he wasn't in wildcat packages during practice Wednesday and Thursday, and then sat down with the coach last Friday to clear the air.
"I just asked for an opportunity to play quarterback and he definitely understood that," Tebow said, "and then Friday, I went up to him again and reiterated that, 'Hey, I'll do anything for this team like I have all year.'"
While Ryan never confirmed or denied the reports, the coach said, "If I would have asked Tim to play in anything, Tim would have gone into the game and done that."
Tebow never played in the Jets' 27-17 loss to the Chargers, as wide receiver Jeremy Kerley handled the majority of snaps in the wildcat package.
More than anything else, Tebow said, he's most disappointed by the attacks on his character and reputation during the last few days — adding that his Christmas "wasn't the best" because of all the talk about how he let his team down.
"When people talk about how you play football and how much, that's one thing," Tebow said. "That really doesn't bother me. I think the only thing that's been disappointing these last few days and frustrating is people saying, 'Oh, you quit on your team or you're not a good teammate.'
"For people to not know the situation and then start to bash your character and then say you're a phony or you're a fake or you're a hypocrite, I think that's what's disappointing and that's what's frustrating. Your character is who you are as a man, and that's a lot more important."
Tebow later added: "You work your whole life to build a reputation, and then people try to bring you down when they don't understand even what happened. It's disappointing."
Miami center Mike Pouncey, who played with Tebow at the University of Florida, walked through the Dolphins' locker room Wednesday saying: "Free Tim Tebow!"
That has been the sentiment among Tebow's many supporters, yet the popular backup has had a minimal role in the Jets' offense. He hasn't played a snap in four of the last five games, partially due to him recovering from two broken ribs, but he hasn't been the dynamic addition the Jets expected him to be. New York will either trade or release Tebow after one season.
When asked if he wanted to return to the Jets next season, Tebow said: "I'm looking forward to this game vs. Buffalo, and we've got to pull together and get a win."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, especially from a guy who repeatedly said he was "excited" to be a member of the Jets when he was acquired from Denver last March.
"It's hard for Timmy, man," Pouncey said last week. "Timmy is a great player. He's a great friend of mine. I wish him nothing but success, and I know he's going through a hard time right now. I had the opportunity to talk to him after our last game and you could tell that he was upset and sad that he wasn't the starting quarterback up there. But I know that once he gets his opportunity he'll do the best he can.
"If the opportunity is not in New York with the Jets, it will be somewhere else. He's a guy who is never going to give up on anything, and I know he wants to be a starting quarterback in this league. And that day will come again for him."
NOTES: CB Antonio Cromartie and S LaRon Landry were selected to the Pro Bowl as backups on the AFC roster. It's the first time the Jets are sending two defensive backs — and it comes in a year in which star CB Darrelle Revis was lost early in the season with a knee injury. "When Revis went down, it speaks volumes to what guys took on and made sure everyone was being accountable," Cromartie said. "And our back end doing what they were supposed to do." Landry is the first Jets safety to go to the Pro Bowl since Erik McMillan went in 1988-89. LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson is a second alternate, while C Nick Mangold and KR Joe McKnight are third alternates.
AP Sports Writer Steven Wine in Davie, Fla., contributed to this report.
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