November 25, 2015

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Ryan Fitzpatrick's bushy beard got buzzed.

The New York Jets quarterback trimmed his overgrown facial hair Tuesday for his 33rd birthday, cutting it down to a closely cropped patch - making him appear more conservative lumberjack than ferocious Viking.

''It seemed like it was time,'' a smiling Fitzpatrick said Wednesday. ''Switch up the mojo a little bit.''

Fitzpatrick, nicknamed the ''Amish Rifle'' because of his usual full facial-hair look, has thrown two interceptions in each of New York's past two games, including on consecutive drives at the end of the Jets' loss at Houston last Sunday.

He did the same thing a year ago around his 32nd birthday while he was with the Texans. Fitzpatrick's next game came against Tennessee and he had the best performance of his career, throwing for 358 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-21 victory.

Leading up to New York's game against Buffalo two weeks ago, Bills coach Rex Ryan joked about how he didn't particularly like Fitzpatrick's beard and said ''he's not a real handsome kid.''

A freshly trimmed Fitzpatrick had some fun with that while being asked about the new look.

''I was going to make a funny joke about Rex Ryan,'' Fitzpatrick said, ''but I'm not going to.''

But the reporters gathered around the quarterback's locker egged him on, and Fitzpatrick went for it.

''All right, I will, OK,'' Fitzpatrick said, keeping a straight face. ''This is what I was going to open with: `Well, after the last few games, I decided I needed to look in the mirror and just try to figure out what I can do better. When I looked in the mirror, I realized Rex was correct: I was pretty ugly.

''And I think this is a better look for me right now.''

Laughs all around.

Except for one corner of the locker room, where bushy-bearded center Nick Mangold lamented the loss of a cut friend.

''Well, I know it's the hot-button issue of the day,'' Mangold said. ''It's difficult, you know, to see a good beard go down. But, obviously, he's a fighter and he'll get back up and continue to work on his growth. And, he'll just keep getting better every day.''

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall said Fitzpatrick brought the idea of the close shave to a group of Jets players. When Marshall was told of Fitzpatrick's reasons, he urged him to go for it.

''I love it,'' Marshall said. ''Sometimes, you need a cleanse and to start fresh. I think I was one of the last guys (to vote), and he was like, `Your vote could potentially get the beard cut off.' It was a lot of pressure on me. It was a team effort, and I think we made the right decision.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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