FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets, who now have a broken-rib controversy to go along with their quarterback controversy, expect backup Tim Tebow to dress Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals despite two fractured ribs.
"I anticipate him being ready to go, but we'll see," Rex Ryan said Monday.
Tebow has generated more headlines this season for not playing than playing. The latest chapter occurred Thursday night in one of the franchise's most embarrassing defeats. He was in uniform for the 49-19 loss to the New England Patriots, but he didn't play. After the game, he revealed that he suffered two cracked ribs Nov. 11 in Seattle.
Publicly, the Jets didn't acknowledge the diagnosis until Friday. Since then, Ryan has been on the defensive, explaining why he decided to dress Tebow as the No. 2 quarterback and why he didn't activate third-stringer Greg McElroy as an insurance policy.
"He could play," Ryan said of Tebow. "People have played with cracked ribs before. But, again, I wasn't going to use him unless we absolutely had to use him. That's happened before with other players as well."
The Jets, in damage control, released a "Tebow injury timeline" on Friday to the media, indicating that X-rays taken in Seattle were negative. The team said it didn't learn of the fractured ribs until Tuesday night after an MRI and CT scan, 48 hours before facing the Patriots in a virtual must-win game.
Tebow, listed as questionable for the game, didn't miss any practice time, according to the Jets. Ryan said he noticed Wednesday at practice that Tebow appeared less energetic than usual, adding, "That's when it became a concern for me."
Ryan said he considered activating McElroy, but he said the doctors cleared Tebow, who insisted he could play. He didn't take any pain-killing injections, the team said.
Fortunately for the Jets (4-7), starter Mark Sanchez wasn't injured in the game, although he absorbed a few hard hits. One of those came on a collision with right guard Brandon Moore on a play now known as "The Butt Fumble." Inexplicably, Sanchez, on a busted play, ran into Moore's backside and was clotheslined, fumbling the ball.
On Monday, the Jets returned to practice after a three-day break. Tebow was in uniform, although he was moving tentatively during the 30-minute period open to the media.
Eyewitnesses say Tebow has struggled to throw the football because of the injury, with Ryan admitting he probably would've limited Tebow to handoffs if he had been forced into action last week. Ryan is in a precarious situation. If he deactivates Tebow against the Cards, it would be acknowledging he made a mistake by dressing him last week.
The Jets are immersed in turmoil, but the ever-optimistic Ryan insisted the team's mission is to win the final five games.
"Oh, heck, yeah, that's the goal, no question," he said. "Absolutely. That's what you try to do. ... I'm not going to (say) ‘Ryan guarantees playoffs' or something like that. We have to get better, and it has to start right now, obviously. You can't look down the road. Of course you'd like to run the table ... but we have to win this game."
None of the Jets' five remaining opponents has better than a 4-7 record.