Twice in the span of a month last season – between December and the January playoffs – the Patriots faced a Denver Broncos team quarterbacked by Tim Tebow.
Nowadays, he's backing up Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets, but the former Heisman Trophy winner is still on the minds of Patriots defenders. They expect to see plenty of Tebow this Sunday when the Jets fly into Foxborough.
Exactly where, though, is still up in the air.
He's very tough. He's a big, strong guy. He breaks a lot of tackles. He's a physical guy, tries to run you over," noted linebacker/co-captain Jerod Mayo."
"Obviously, he has a specific skill set. He can do a lot of different things. You know, special teams, playing quarterback, fullback, sometimes he lines up at wide receiver. You always have to know where he is, but at the same time, he's a football player like everyone else. I don't know how much he'll be playing quarterback against us, but we'll be ready for it."
"He's obviously a guy that can run the ball. He's a strong guy. Last year, we saw him a few times… that helps us out," added defensive end Rob Ninkovich.
"You've got to give him attention, because you never know what game they're going to keep him in there longer or have more of a focus on him. Defense has to respect the Wildcat-type offense. We'll do a good job of preparing this week for that."
Still, New England must also prepare for Sanchez, the starting QB.
"Obviously, both quarterbacks have different things they bring to the table," continued Ninkovich. "Sanchez, the last couple of weeks, he's been playing well, making the right decisions, throwing the ball well. We have to do a good job of taking away his reads and what he likes to do."
"They're running the ball well and Sanchez is playing well the last couple of weeks," echoed Mayo.
No matter who's taking snaps, though, New England is prepared for a good old fashioned AFC East battle, with both teams at 3-3 with Buffalo and Miami also tied in the standings.
"I think the team has turned the page [from the Seattle loss], from the coaches on down," said Mayo. "We know this is a big game, a division game, a conference game, and we need to win."
"It's always a big game," added Ninkovich. "Always seems to have that energy, like the Ravens. Everybody's just ready to roll. Division game always makes it that much more exciting."
Aaron it out
Tight end Aaron Hernandez spent a few minutes with reporters today, his first interaction with them since returning from a right ankle injury. Hernandez said he feared initially that he'd broken the ankle during the Cardinals game in Week 2, but that "it's nothing to worry about" any longer.
For much more reaction from Hernandez, plus a complete roundup of practice and today's locker room interviews, please visit the PFW blog.