Starter or not, Fitzpatrick aims to be ready for Jets
DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
Jun. 03, 2015
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Ryan Fitzpatrick has been in this spot many times throughout his NFL career.
The veteran quarterback is the backup, not the New York Jets' projected starter right now. That label belongs to Geno Smith, who's coming off two shaky seasons.
Fitzpatrick is fine with that for now. He knows things can change, just as they did for him in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Tennessee and Houston — all stops in which he became his team's starting quarterback.
"That's kind of been a lot of my career, not necessarily being the guy right away and having to step in, and not having there be any sort of drop-off," Fitzpatrick said after practice Wednesday. "That's something that I pride myself on: Whether I'm the Day 1 starter or I'm the third-string guy, when I go in there, I'm going to be ready to be able to execute."
The Jets are counting on that, just in case Smith fails to show he's "the guy."
Smith will go into training camp next month as the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart, and it's up to him to remain there.
"You don't go into camp having two first-team guys," coach Todd Bowles said. "Geno's the first-team quarterback. It's Ryan's job to take it, and it's Geno's job to (not) lose it. If he doesn't lose it, and Ryan doesn't take it, he's the starter."
Smith has been inconsistent during his first two seasons, with glimmers of solid play overshadowed at times by glaring mistakes that have led to him being benched. He has 25 touchdown passes and an eye-popping 34 interceptions, with some opponents saying he stares down his receivers.
With new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey in the fold, his spread tendencies seem to play into Smith's strengths. New general manager also added some playmakers on offense, trading for wide receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Zac Stacy, signing running back Stevan Ridley and adding depth to the offensive line. As guard Willie Colon said during an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday, the Jets "bought the Porsche, we've given (Smith) the keys, he can't crash it."
Bowles downplayed Colon's comments, saying that he didn't think the lineman was being overly critical of Smith, but added that he prefers a player not say anything about a teammate if they have nothing good to say.
"I don't know what kind of car we have yet," Bowles said, smiling. "We're still building it. There's a lot of parts to be determined in that."
Starting with the quarterback, of course.
Fitzpatrick is 32 and hardly the future of the franchise. But, he could very well be the quarterback when Week 1 rolls around.
"With Coach Bowles, the thing that he's made clear to everybody in this locker room is, you're going to have to earn your spot," Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick looked good Wednesday, zipping tight spirals around the field and lofting a pretty TD pass of about 50 yards to Eric Decker for a touchdown during 7-on-7 drills. Not bad for a guy who had his season end prematurely last December when he broke his left leg during a game.
"At this point, I'm feeling pretty good," Fitzpatrick said. "There's still treatments and daily soreness and stuff like that."
On a long scramble during practice, Fitzpatrick showed no signs of tentativeness. He's expected to be fully ready for the start of training camp.
"Everything's on track right now," he said.
Bowles likes what he has seen from Fitzpatrick, calling him "a pretty sharp guy" who has a good understanding of the offense despite being limited in the offseason. That's to be expected, of course, from a Harvard grad. The physical improvement has been a big positive, though.
"His arm's a little stronger and he's getting healthier," Bowles said. "Obviously still knocking the rust off a little bit."
Fitzpatrick's familiarity with Gailey's offense was a major reason the Jets traded for him in March, giving them a veteran with success in the league. Last year with the Texans, Fitzpatrick threw for 2,483 yards with 17 touchdowns — including a franchise-record six against Tennessee last November — and just eight interceptions, and a career-best 95.3 passer rating in 12 games as the starter.
"This being my sixth different team and really sixth or seventh or eighth different situation that I've been in, in terms of being a No. 4 or a 3 or a 2 or a 1 (on the depth chart), I know I've got to be ready," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm always going to be ready, no matter what is said or what is not said. That's kind of my approach."
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