By Carmine Frongillo

MediaNews

FOXBORO -- It remains to be seen how much, if any, Tebowing will take place on the New England Patriots' sideline this fall.

His many critics feel Tim Tebow's NFL career will come to an end sooner rather than later, especially if the Patriots' current third-string quarterback doesn't reinvent himself as a tight end, H-back, fullback or special-teams player.

But for now, you have to believe Tebow's faith in his ability to consistently complete passes in the best football league in the world, no matter how wobbly they may look, is as strong as his faith in his Christian beliefs.

If this wasn't the case, Tebow wouldn't have spent the opening of Patriots training camp Friday decked out in a red quarterback jersey with the No. 5 on it, (second-string quarterback Ryan Mallett wears No. 15) throwing the football around the yard in the rain (yes he let loose with some wounded ducks), in front of many adoring fans.

Not even Mother Nature could rain on Tebow's parade on this day as he officially started what he hopes will be a new chapter in his career. That includes learning, watching and developing behind future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.

"It was fun to get out here and really start practicing," said Tebow, who stayed on the field and signed autographs for fans long after many players had headed to the dry comfort of the locker room. "You have a great coaching staff. There are great players. I'm getting to watch one of the best ever to play the game in Tom.


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It's been a lot of fun for me.

"I'm going to do what they ask me to do and I feel that's how it is for everybody on the team. I feel everyone is buying into what they are being asked to do. I'm focused on working as hard as I can and getting better."

Tebow won the Heisman Trophy while playing at the University of Florida. He then blossomed into perhaps the NFL's most recognizable star, achieving cult-hero status as a player who connected with even nonsports fans while leading the Denver Broncos to the playoffs in 2011. During the fall of 2012, Tebow served as perhaps the most publicized backup quarterback in league history, playing behind embattled starter Mark Sanchez on the New York Jets.

He signed with the Patriots as a free agent prior to mini-camp. In many ways, the timing of Tebow's arrival in Foxboro couldn't be better as the staff and players are still coming to grips with the shocking arrest of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez in the murder of Odin Lloyd last month.

Tebow may not be your prototypical NFL quarterback, but he is tough, plays the game the right way, and above all else, is a great character guy to have in a locker room.

"For me (my faith) plays a role in everything that I do in life," said Tebow. "It's not only a part of me, it's who I am. And it's the biggest part of me."

Tebow was asked about Hernandez, his former teammate at Florida while meeting with the media.

"It was heartbreaking and it was sad," said Tebow, who is entering his fourth NFL season. "All my thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who were involved."

Getting back to the business of playing football had to be a good diversion for everyone in the Patriots' organization. And Tebow is first and foremost a football player who will do anything that's asked of him.

Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick is the master of maximizing every ounce of ability from a player, such as using receivers, Troy Brown, and, Julian Edelman, on defense. Tebow did catch a pass in a drill Friday.

"I think that we'll use Tim wherever we feel like he's best for the team and I know that's what he's committed to doing as well, whatever that is," said Belichick.

Should Tebow make the final roster, he would be more than willing to be cast in a supporting role to Brady, whom he greatly admires.

"I feel like we have a great relationship," said Tebow. "I've felt like we've had a good relationship over the last few years playing against each other. I hope it will grow being on the same team.

"I feel every situation is a learning opportunity. Not only in football, but in everything you do in life. There are ups and downs. There are learning opportunities. There's praise and criticism. You have to learn to deal with everything."

Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi.