NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
He stepped over to a microphone and discussed for the first time the new opportunity that awaits him in Tennessee. He made it clear early and often that he’s going to embrace his role as a backup quarterback and mentor to third-year pro
Tennessee became Fitzpatrick’s fourth team in the NFL. He started 52 of 55 games in four seasons in Buffalo and another 12 of 14 games in two seasons in Cincinnati. Fitzpatrick said when Buffalo let go of former coach Chan Gailey, he thought it might also be the end of his run with the Bills. The seventh-round pick of the 2005 NFL Draft (250th overall out of Harvard) incorporated strategy after he was released.
“I wanted to find a nice role for me to come in and more than likely help a young guy,” Fitzpatrick said. “I feel that was something that was important to look for, and this was for me, a great opportunity for me to come in — I don’t know Jake at all, but to help Jake, to be there for him and be ready to play if anything happens.”
|Ryan Fitzpatrick started 52 of 55 games in four seasons with Buffalo. Click here for a slideshow.|
The boots and country music (Fitzpatrick “likes it;” his wife “loves it”) may be an ancillary relationship builder between Fitzpatrick and Locker, who built a strong friendship with former Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck and backup
Fitzpatrick admitted it is necessary to put aside a degree of pride to shift from starter to backup and find ways to satisfy his competitive spirit.
“I want to be out there helping the team win on Sundays,” he said. “But it’s also the reality of the situation right now, which is they’ve got a ton of confidence and faith in Jake here, and my role and what they have assigned me to do is help him out and push him and make sure that he gets better and be there just in case.”
Fitzpatrick said he heard about Locker’s toughness and the “great quarterback room” and said he wants to work in a similar environment.
“That’s an important thing, I think, to be able to have a good atmosphere in that room where you spend a majority of your time game planning and breaking down opponents and doing all that,” Fitzpatrick said. “We spend probably more time together than I spend with my wife and kids during the season, definitely, so it’s important to be able to like the people in that room. It makes it a lot easier because it’s a tough job, dealing with (the media) and 350-pound guys trying to tackle you and all that stuff, so you want to make sure you can take out all the negative stuff that you can control, so having a positive room with good relationships is really important.”
Fitzpatrick said he’s learned from the changes he’s already experienced in a career that began in St. Louis and has included multiple offensive schemes. He said he expects Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains to build the system around what Locker does best while Fitzpatrick adds what he’s learned to the conversation.
“I think I’ve gotten a lot better in terms of the mental side of it, in terms of the preparation,” Fitzpatrick said. “There’s a lot of things that go into it, not only physically, but the leadership aspects of it, being able to talk to your receivers, all that different stuff that goes into being a quarterback in the NFL, I feel like I’ve become a lot more professional in the last three years with the experiences that I’ve had. It’s one of those things where you try and pay it forward and pass it down to the next guy.”
Fitzpatrick’s only previous trip to Nashville occurred in 2009 with Buffalo that was essentially airport, hotel, LP Field and airport again. He flew in from Arizona and had lunch with Loggains and met other Titans coaches Monday. He was able to meet team officials at the annual owners meetings that occurred conveniently close to his home in Arizona last week to discuss the contract that he signed Monday.
Fitzpatrick said he and his wife and children ages “6, 4, 2 and brand new” had begun to “lay our roots” in Buffalo and he was disappointed to leave before reaching where he hoped to take the Bills but looked forward to the “new adventure.”
“I think everywhere we’ve been, we’ve liked a little more than the last place,” Fitzpatrick said. “Buffalo is a place that will always be close to our hearts with the people we met there and all that, so hopefully this brings bigger and better things.”
“I’m going to feel comfortable right away, I think, with being able to see Andy on a daily basis and George Wilson,” he said. “Those were two of my favorite teammates in Buffalo, so those two moves, I thought, were very important in terms of bringing guys that are good, quality guys that are going to bring leadership to a team. Those are two of the best that the Bills had to offer and two guys that I respect a lot.”