In the unlikely event that Tim Tebow actually plays for the Jaguars this season, he’ll return to the field nine years after playing his last NFL game. In doing so, he’d be doing something not seen since Doug Flutie.
Flutie was drafted in 1985, played one year in the USFL and then played for the Bears and Patriots before leaving the NFL in 1989. He then embarked on an eight-year career in the CFL before returning to the NFL with the Bills in 1998, nine years after he had last played in the NFL.
According to NFL Network, no one else in the Super Bowl era has gone nine years between playing in NFL games with the exception of two players who did it thanks to the 1987 players’ strike, when NFL owners hired replacement players. Two players did it then: Tony Adams, who had last played in the NFL in 1978 with the Chiefs, returned as a replacement player with the 1987 Vikings. And David Diaz-Infante played on the 1987 replacement Chargers before bouncing around the football world in a couple of minor leagues, then returned to the NFL with the 1996 Broncos.
Tebow is very different from Flutie, who spent his intervening nine years actually playing football at a high level, albeit in a different league. And there is no players’ strike this year. So what the Jaguars are giving Tebow a chance to do is basically unprecedented in NFL history.