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At NFL meetings, many important issues -- but talk all about Tebow

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- These are the NFL's owner's meetings. Billion dollar business. Powerful men running the most powerful sport in the world. Rooneys and Maras and Elways ... all kinds of royalty and power in one place. And do you know what one of the biggest topics here is: Tim Freaking Tebow, that's who.

Oh, sure, there are other topics, these little things like rules changes and historic bounty suspensions. For the moment, those are secondary. Everyone is talking Tim Tebow. A backup quarterback who can't throw a spiral is dominating these meetings.

John Mara, co-owner of the New York Giants, had maybe the joke of the month. Mara was asked Sunday here by reporters if New York was big enough for the Giants and Tebow. "I don't know," he said, "but the David Carr press conference will be tomorrow afternoon, too." Carr is the Giants' backup.

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Ohhhhh, burn.

Privately, when I've spoken to Giants officials, they laugh at the Jets. Literally laugh at them. They believe the Giants make moves to win and the Jets make moves to shock. This isn't stunning news; the two teams are intense rivals.

What is shocking is how Tebow remains one of the most discussed topics among the NFL elite gathering for their annual meetings many miles away in a wealthy Florida enclave. One general manager told me he spent 45 minutes talking Tebow with a fellow GM; both have solid quarterbacks and were never interested in him.

Other executives told me they spent time at dinner Sunday night reviewing the merits and faults of the trade. The general consensus, these executives said, is that the Jets have made a terrible mistake.

One coach spoke of going to a steak house in the Palm Beach area and being asked by a half-dozen NFL fans what he thought of Tebow going to New York.

"Tebow will be starting by Week 8, Week 9 at the latest," said one coach.

On and on it goes. There are certainly parts of the league that has Tebow fatigue, just like many parts of Planet Earth, but there are definitely people here and across football who are obsessed with him: the coverage, the interest, the debate about his skills. Inside the sport, there is just as much obsession and debate about Tebow as outside of it.

I asked almost everyone I could here when was the last time a backup player was so talked about. No one could remember, and some of these people are huge football historians. The name that came up the most was Mike Vick, and even that's not quite comparable. Vick had been a starter, is extremely talented, won a lot of games, advanced deep into the playoffs and had just ended a prison stint after becoming one of the more notorious figures in recent NFL history.

(Perhaps the only thing comes remotely close -- and it's a huge stretch -- is when Don Shula brought in Earl Morrall to back up Bob Griese beginning in 1972. It was a huge deal then, but it was understood Morrall was clearly the reserve to Griese. Morrall would later become a key component to Miami's perfect season by stepping in when Griese shattered his leg.)

Eventually, maybe as early as Tuesday, these meetings will shift back into normal orbit. It's expected that New Orleans coach Sean Payton will address the media. The league will also dig heavily into various proposed rules changes.

League business will go on without Tebow being at its core.

But for now, even here, in Palm Beach, where there is so much happening in the NFL universe, it's all about Tebow.

When standing in a hallway watching owners and executives walk by en route to one of their many meetings this week, one team public relations director pointed to Jets owner Woody Johnson, who is here.

"Does he knew what he's in for?" the person said.

He's about to find out.


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