Tebow, who has played quarterback for his last six years in the NFL, signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars last week and will try to make their roster a close end. The former Heisman Trophy winner turns 34 in August and hasn’t been on an NFL team since 2015, when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles during the preseason.
The Jaguars’ decision to sign Tebow – a move that reunites him with first-year head coach Urban Meyer – has generated widespread interest and has been the subject of extensive scrutiny. But Burton, who was teammate with Tebow in the Eagles’ 2015 preseason, told ESPN he supports the former star.
“I don’t understand the outrage,” said Burton, a free agent who spent seven years in the NFL. “There are 90 [roster] spots. If they want to bring someone in, why not? Many teams take leaflets from men from different backgrounds every year. ”
Burton is uniquely qualified to speak about the change in stance for Tebow, who last played in an NFL regular season game in 2012.
Like Tebow, Burton signed with Meyer and the Florida Gators to play quarterback. But Meyer told Burton he’s too athletic to sit on the bench, and changing positions might work well.
So Burton became a tight end in Florida and, although he was not drafted in 2014, caught up to Philadelphia, helping the Eagles to a Super Bowl as passer of the famous “Philly Special” touchdown.
Burton’s versatility earned him a four-year, $ 32 million contract with the Chicago Bears heading into the 2018 season. For his career, he has 159 catches for 1,532 yards and 15 touchdowns. Florida also produced Jordan Reed, another tight NFL end who signed with the Gators as a quarterback.
Burton knows Tebow is facing a tough transition, in large part because of physicality and “learning to strike every day” with proper hand placement.
“From an athletic and mental standpoint, there is no doubt that he will do a great job,” said Burton. “It’s the daily physical part, the technique that is the most difficult thing.
“As a quarterback, you’re in the pocket looking for cover. On the tight end, you know the covers, but you have to go full speed into a three-point position and diagnose. You see the linebacker, the defensive side and the safety. on your side of the field. … There is much more to it than whether he can do it or not. It’s deeper than that. “
Tebow didn’t promise anything with the Jaguars because his $ 920,000 contract doesn’t include any guarantees. His early working days have been low-key, with understanding from all sides that he is just another player with an uphill battle to form a team.
Burton is also not worried that Tebow will take on a job that might go to tighter ends of more skilled free agents, acknowledging that Meyer’s relationship with Tebow goes a long way – and underlines the coach’s confidence in the player. Burton isn’t sure how Meyer might use Tebow, as his offense will likely change in the NFL.
And like many Tebow fans, Burton believes the player will at least give himself a fighting chance.
“I really hope he does well. I love what he talks about, how he plays the game, ”said Burton. “There’s no doubt in the world he’s the kind of guy who tries to defy all odds. You say he can’t do it, well, he’s going to give it all he’s got. ”