FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Tim Tebow hopes he’s healthy enough for a happy homecoming.
The New York Jets’ backup quarterback is still recovering from two broken ribs that have kept him out of the last two games. The team is playing Tebow’s hometown Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday — the first time he’ll play there are a pro since his rookie season with Denver in 2010.
“I have a lot of family and friends who will be there,” Tebow said Wednesday. “Jacksonville will always be a special place to me. It’s where I grew up and where a lot of my family still calls home. It will be a lot of fun.”
Whether it’s from the field or the sideline remains uncertain. Tebow was limited again at practice, but said he was able to throw passes at full force for the first time in a few weeks.
“It’s getting close,” he said. “It’s getting a lot closer.”
Tight end Dustin Keller sat out practice with a sprained left ankle, while rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill was out with a knee injury. Wide receiver Clyde Gates also did not participate while recovering from a concussion.
Running back Joe McKnight (ankle, ribs), guard Brandon Moore (hip) and nose tackle Sione Pouha (back) were limited.
Tebow was injured at Seattle on Nov. 11, and played three offensive snaps the following week at St. Louis. He was active but Rex Ryan kept him on the sideline – to be used only in “an emergency” – against New England after the quarterback convinced the coach he could play following a pregame evaluation.
Despite being medically cleared, Tebow was inactive last Sunday against Arizona because he still wasn’t completely healed.
“I just try to do what the trainers and doctors say and what the coach asks me to do,” he said. “That’s all I can control.”
Tebow had X-rays taken Sunday that showed “some healing, but still fractures,” and will have a new set taken later in the week to make sure things are progressing.
“It’s not 100 percent,” he said, “but I can still throw OK.”
If cleared by doctors and made active by Ryan, Tebow will be the backup to Mark Sanchez, whom Ryan announced Wednesday would remain the starter. After Sanchez struggled and was benched in favor of third-stringer Greg McElroy in the Jets’ 7-6 win over Arizona last Sunday, Ryan took a few days to make his decision.
While it appears Tebow was never really in the mix for the start, Ryan said he would be Sanchez’s backup Sunday.
“I know he can play and I know he’s been cleared to play, but I don’t believe he’s been healthy for what I think he should be,” Ryan said. “If that was my son, I would not want him playing, and that’s how I look at this. But if he was completely healthy, then Tim would be our No. 2.”
Tebow nearly became a member of the Jaguars, who along with the Jets were interested in trading for the popular quarterback last offseason. While he has been used in a limited role in New York, he insists he has no regrets about playing for the Jets.
“I would have loved to play for both organizations, but I am a Jet,” Tebow said. “I’m glad I’m a Jet. I’m looking forward to this game and going back home.”