Afterward, coach Rex Ryan said his backup quarterback needs to be more cautious when scrambling from the pocket. He wants Tebow to get rid of the ball instead of always following his first instinct, taking on would-be tacklers.
"It's OK to throw the ball out of bounds," Ryan said. "You don't have to stand there, smack a guy away and run. ... But he's so competitive that he thinks, 'Hey, that first guy, I'll shrug him off and run.' "
Working exclusively with the second-team offense, Tebow took a total of 12 snaps (including one penalty) in team drills. He dropped back to pass seven times, resulting in one "sack" and two scrambles.
During one scramble, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano yelled for him to throw the ball, but Tebow turned up field and ran it into the teeth of the defense.
There was no Tebow-Mania at practice, as it was closed to the public. Saturday is the first open practice, with a few thousand fans expected.
The Jets know from past experience that Tebow can be a weapon when he gets outside the pocket. Facing the Jets last season, he led the Denver Broncos to a come-from-behind win, scoring on a 20-yard run in the final minute.
Ryan plans to use Tebow in a Wildcat-style attack, but he operated strictly in a conventional offense in the first practice. He also saw time on special teams, deployed as the personal protector on the punt team.
With Mark Sanchez getting the bulk of the snaps, Tebow didn't get much of a chance to demonstrate his highly scrutinized throwing mechanics. He went 4-for-4 in team drills, excluding a nice deep completion to Jeremy Kerley that didn't count because of a penalty.
Ryan said Tebow needs to improve his accuracy on short passes, although his well-documented issues didn't show up on the first day.
"Sometimes the touch on shorter passes ... he's working hard and getting better at those things," Ryan said.
Tebow underthrew rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill on a deep route in a 7-on-7 drill, releasing the pass a split-second too late. After watching Tebow throughout the spring, the Jets believe he has the ability to hit the long ball.
"Overall, I'm impressed with Tim, the way he throws downfield," Ryan said.
Tebow said he was satisfied with his opening-day performance. It had to be weird for him, playing with the backups after leading the Broncos to an improbable playoff berth last season.
"Whether I'm first-team or not, when I'm asked to go in there, I go in there with the best attitude I can," he said. "I try to handle my role and try to do the best I can with my role."
For years, Tebow has been criticized for his mechanical flaws -- namely, an elongated throwing motion -- but he has tried to clean it up. In the offseason, he worked with UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and throwing guru Tom House, the former major league pitcher.
"I'm just trying to improve every single day, and I feel like I really made some good strides this offseason," he said.
On Day 1, Sanchez (7-for-8 in team drills) stole the show, as the Jets' starting offense -- spotty throughout the spring -- was surprisingly sharp. Focusing on first- and second-down plays, with a heavy accent on play-action, Sanchez came out on fire.
"Awesome ... exciting," Sanchez said. "Just what we wanted ... perfect."
The Jets are learning a new offensive system after six years under Brian Schottenheimer, who was replaced by Sparano. They struggled during minicamp and OTAs, but Ryan insisted they have a better grasp of the offense than he expected.
"It's really encouraging to me," he said. "But it's not surprising with the kind of teacher we have."