Tim Tebow on possible NFL return: 'I have to play baseball now'

Tebow focused on baseball, not outside noise (0:44)

Tim Tebow says he is only focused on being a baseball player and not letting hype or criticism enter his mind. (0:44)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Tim Tebow has an answer ready for the New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns and any other NFL team with a void at quarterback: He's a baseball player now.

After taking part in his first day of the New York Mets' instructional league, Tebow said he is committed to his new sport and has no interest in fielding calls from NFL teams that have a need at quarterback because of an injury.

"I have to play baseball now -- that's what I would tell them," Tebow said. "I'm part of the Mets family now."

Tebow signed a minor league contract with the Mets for a $100,000 bonus 11 days ago after an open tryout in Los Angeles in late August. He last wore a football uniform during the 2015 NFL preseason with the Philadelphia Eagles; his previous stops include the Denver Broncos, New York Jets and Patriots.

Tebow joined 57 other minor leaguers and 24 coaches Monday at the Instructional League, which runs for three weeks at the Mets' spring training complex at Tradition Field. More than 400 fans and about 70 media members watched him take part in a variety of drills and routine baseball activities for about two hours.

Before donning a Mets uniform, Tebow last played organized baseball as a high school outfielder in suburban Jacksonville in 2005. He gave up baseball at the University of Florida and went on to win a Heisman Trophy and lead the Gators to two national titles.

During a 30-minute news conference Monday, Tebow said he is unconcerned with the negative fallout from critics who have called his foray into baseball a publicity stunt and have written off his chances for success.

"The good thing is, I don't have to say anything," Tebow said. "I get to go in the locker room, get a workout, take a shower, hang out with my teammates and show up tomorrow and go train again.

"A lot of people might say, 'You have a chip on your shoulder.' Well, I guess I have a little chip. But it's not really the naysayers. I want to prove the Mets organization and the coaches here right, and try to be the best baseball player and person that I can. I'm doing it to pursue what's in my heart and live out a dream and live life to the fullest."

Tebow's first day was relatively uneventful. At 10 a.m. ET, he took the field for 15 minutes of stretching. Then he participated in baserunning drills and shagged balls in the outfield before taking soft tosses from coaches and stepping in the batting cage.

Although Tebow didn't hit any home runs in batting practice, he made solid contact throughout his four sessions in the cage and drove two balls off the right-field fence. The crowd cheered him after every round.

Mets manager Terry Collins checked in with his counterparts in Florida, including rehab coordinator Jon Debus, after Monday's workout to see how Tebow performed.

"They said it was pretty interesting," Collins said. "... Jon said, 'I've seen a lot of guys work hard.' He said, 'This guy's a monster.' He said he was sweating pretty profusely at the end of the day, but he said he was in good shape.

"He said everything he did, he got a round of applause. So I'm sure it was fun."

Timmy Truong, a 2015 University of Florida graduate, was among many Gators fans who showed up for the workout. The fans mobbed Tebow for autographs, and he signed for about five minutes on a back field before heading to the main complex in a golf cart to meet the media.

"If you went to UF, you know Tim Tebow," Truong said. "You have to come out and show him some respect for what he brought to the school. I'm pretty sure 90 percent of the people here are for Tim Tebow -- not for the Mets."

At age 29, Tebow is significantly older than the other players in Port St. Lucie. Pitcher Cameron Griffin is the second-oldest player at 25, and pitchers Keaton Aldridge and Ronald Sanchez are the only other Instructional Leaguers older than 23.

Standing 6-foot-3, 255 pounds -- with roughly 7 percent body fat -- Tebow is also significantly bigger and more muscular than the other campers. His size made him easier to spot for fans who leaned on chain-link fences as he shagged fly balls or ran sprints in the distance.

In addition to widespread skepticism about his playing ability, Tebow has received some criticism for his plan to leave the Instructional League each week to continue his TV work with ESPN's SEC Nation. He said he will typically leave Port St. Lucie on Friday morning and return on Saturday after his analyst duties are complete.

"When I give my word to somebody, I'm going to keep it no matter what," Tebow said. "This is something I had to do because I gave my word to my SEC family. I'm a big believer in that. It's how I was raised. That's what I want my integrity to stand for. When I give my word on something, I want it to mean something."

Tebow said he plans to develop one-on-one relationships with his younger teammates in camp and address any issues that might arise. At the moment, his specialized schedule doesn't appear to be a problem.

"In the course of talking with guys, a couple of them have already brought it up," Tebow said. "They're like, 'So you're flying to Auburn this weekend?' Some of them are already trying to get college football advice."

ESPN's Adam Rubin contributed to this report.