(Ryan Fitzpatrick – Photo by Neil Miller – Sportsday Wire)
Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the Jets’ starting quarterback when they open the season this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, and he is appreciative to have the chance ton continue his long NFL journey.
With Fitzpatrick, the Jets have the stability at quarterback they have been searching for. The Jets never knew week to week what they were going to get from Geno Smith, whether he would look like an all-star or if he never took the field before.
Fitzpatrick has played in St. Louis, Buffalo, and Houston, but never caught on in any of those places. He had some moments, such as a strong start to the 2011 season in Buffalo, and his six-touchdown, 358-yard performance for the Texans last year in a game against Houston that was two weeks before he suffered a broken leg that ended his season.
Fitzpatrick said of this Sunday, “Opening day is always very exciting. To get into that game, just all the work we put forth and all the uncertainty surrounding, ‘Okay, what kind of team are we going to have? How we’re going to be when we face adversity?’ All that kind of stuff. I think we’ve got a veteran group here that’s handled and seen a lot of adversity, so I’m excited to see what we’re going to do. The first game of the year is always fun. We’re healthy going into the game. Everybody is excited and the uncertainty is a lot of fun too.”
On his preparation for this game, Fitzpatrick said, “Getting reps in practice and having a few weeks under my belt now and being able to work with our guys that certainly helps. It helps with everything, the timing, the communication, all that stuff. Just being comfortable in the huddle, me being comfortable with them, them being comfortable with me. It was nice to get a few preseason games in, however short it was in those games, just to work through some of the kinks and get on the same page with everything.”
He has fit right in with the Jets from day one and has worked well with wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Fitzpatrick said to the question of if he feels like this is his team, “Every week, every game, you have to go in with complete command of the game plan, (and) know everything that’s going on. Have stuff catered to the way I like it as a quarterback going into the game. One of the things with me, is knowing my strengths and weaknesses and making sure that we’re playing to my strengths. We have a lot of talent on our side of the ball and we’re excited to get out there and show it.”
Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles said of what he has learned about Ryan Fitzpatrick so far, “Personally, I think he is in a good place as a quarterback at this stage in his career. I think he’s comfortable with who he is and he understands offense and what’s around him. He’s going to take what you give to him. Maybe early on in his career, he was trying to force some balls in, but he’s in a good place. He understands the offense pretty well and he’s jelling with everybody.”
Fitzpatrick said of Coach Bowles’ remarks on his play maturing and that he’s in a good place in his career, “I think what he’s saying there is, me understanding who I am as a quarterback, what things I’m good at, what things I’m not. Just really catering to the things that I excel at. Eliminating some of the bad plays, whether it was a bad throw or bad decision, eliminating that today, tomorrow and before we get to the game on Sunday. So, I’ve got my decisions set out and I’m making the right ones on Sunday. Just the way that I’m thinking about the game maybe is a little different now than it was five years ago.”
For Fitzpatrick, this is a long road back after he broke his left leg last December while playing for Houston in a game against Indianapolis. The injury was so severe that he needed a rod put into his leg, and the rehabilitation process seemed never-ending.
On what it will feel like to start against Cleveland after overcoming his leg injury, Fitzpatrick said, “It’s going to be awesome. I’d never really had a serious injury, and so just going through having surgery and putting a rod in my leg and having trouble walking for a few months, it was hard for me. It’s hard when you’re sitting around having to put in the rehab and the hours and not seeing much in terms of results for months and months. The training staff with Houston when I was there and then the training staff here have been awesome for me and we put a lot of hard work into it. It will mean even that much more to me just because of the reward of all the hard work that I put in and a lot of people on Houston and New York’s medical staff has put in, in getting me ready.”
Fitzpatrick said of his leg injury has changed how he plays, “I don’t think so. I have a particular style of play and hopefully it makes me even more underrated (joking).”
On if there was a point during his rehab where he thought he was done in the NFL, Fitzpatrick said, “No. I had a lot of people that I was able to talk to, friends and different people, that have had the same injury and just kind of talking to them about the process and what it takes. A lot of it was time, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do rather than let my bone heal. Being able to lean on some of the trainers with their experience with it and some other players I played with. There was always a light at the end of the tunnel, but it certainly was hard early on with the injury.”
On if learning your strengths and weaknesses stop after being in the league for multiple years, Fitzpatrick said, “No, it doesn’t. Part of it is, as quarterbacks I think we’re all a little hard-headed too. ‘I think I can do everything and I want to be superman, I want to do all that.’ But, there is a learning process and you come to the realization that you have to focus on the things that will make you successful.”
Fitzpatrick said of things he has tried to improve on over the years, “To be honest, I think you guys know most of them. I’ve seen plenty of articles where you guys pointed them out (laughter). I mean there’s plenty of stuff, but decision making, there’s so much that goes into that so it’s hard to put it on one or two things. But, decision making, I think I’ve come a long way just in terms of whether it’s matchups or whether it’s me knowing throws that I’m good at versus throws that I’m not good at, that kind of stuff.”
On how much uncertainty there is preparing for a team in Week One, Fitzpatrick said, “There’s always a lot of uncertainty. You can watch tape from last year, watch it from the preseason, but there’s always going to be wrinkles. Part of that is the adversity I’m talking about and stuff happening during the game that maybe we didn’t foresee or having to make certain adjustments. You know it’s going to happen in every NFL game and definitely in the first one. With our coaching staff and our experience we’re going to have to fight through some stuff and that’s part of the fun in the game.”
Fitzpatrick said of the Cleveland secondary, “There’s a lot of talent there. Donte Whitner, being a guy that I played with and got to see firsthand kind of the way he flies around, opportunistic, he made a lot of interceptions last year. Adding (Tramon) Williams to the secondary was obviously something, he’s a tough guy to compete against. We’re going to have our hands full, but at the same time I think we have a lot of talent going against them. It should be a fun matchup to watch.”
Fitzpatrick said of eliminating turnovers, “I think that’s part of it. I think that’s a huge thing for us every week is going to be eliminating turnovers, eliminating sacks, the good stuff on third down and in the red zone, that’s the stuff that’s going to happen. Turnovers, sacks they’re going to happen, you want to keep them to a minimum. We’re going to focus on that, but then also how you respond when it happens and making sure that people aren’t hanging their heads and are moving on and we’re staying confident. So there’s a lot that goes into it.”
On a theory going around that he doesn’t have to be great for the team to be successful, Fitzpatrick said, “I’m going to go out there and I want to be great for who I am and what type of quarterback I am. I want to put the team in the right play. I want to make the right decisions. I want to make all the throws. But, great for me is going to be different than great for somebody else. I want to be as good as I know I can be and just continue to improve each week. I think I’ve continued to improve each year as my career has gone on, so continue on that up trend.”