Fans to Fitzpatrick during stalemate: 'Stop being greedy'
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Ryan Fitzpatrick had a tough time just blending in with the crowd this summer during his contract stalemate with the New York Jets.
Of course, that mountain man look with his bushy beard and puffed-up pompadour certainly didn't help him stay incognito.
Whether it was at the airport, restaurants, public bathrooms or on the golf course, Fitzpatrick heard from fans who wanted to know if he'd ever re-sign with the Jets, why he wouldn't accept their initial offer and whether he'd retire.
''Everywhere I went,'' the Jets quarterback said Saturday, ''that was the topic of conversation.''
That included when he was in the New Jersey area. And vacationing in Hayward, Wisconsin. His hometown of Gilbert, Arizona, too. And even Lake Tahoe, California.
''I mean, everybody had some opinion,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''It was because you guys kept putting me on ESPN.''
Fitzpatrick agreed to a one-year, $12 million deal with the Jets on Wednesday and signed the contract minutes before the team's first training camp practice Thursday. That finally ended a staredown that dragged on since March and had the Jets uncertain who would be under center for them this season.
As training camp drew closer, Jets fans let Fitzpatrick know how they felt - and what he should do.
''It was a little bit of both,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''Some of them were trying to feel it out and buddy me up to get the answer or, `What's really going on with the situation?' They wanted my agent's number. Some of them were telling me that I needed to sign. Stop being so greedy.
''It was just like everything in the book was thrown at me.''
Fitzpatrick added that ''for the most part,'' the fans were mostly respectful about the situation.
One reporter suggested that maybe shaving his beard could have made him a little more inconspicuous.
''Yeah, I could have,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I don't know if it would have helped or not.''
It all worked out - eventually. And, Jets fans cheered Fitzpatrick when he jogged onto the practice field Saturday before heavy thunderstorms forced the players indoors and sent the soaked crowd home early.
Three practices in, Fitzpatrick appears to have quickly shed the rust of the offseason. He looked sharp Friday and Saturday, connecting with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker throughout. Just like old times, when he set the franchise record last season with 31 touchdown tosses.
''Somewhere through the first practice, I started feeling a lot better,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''Seeing things a lot better and the ball coming out of my hand better.''
Coach Todd Bowles had the Jets in full pads for the first time in camp and the team worked on red-zone situations throughout. Fitzpatrick acknowledged that he was a bit slow on some throws and not as crisp as he'd like.
''I think it was apparent there that I've got a long way to go,'' he said. ''But I felt good the first few days. My arm feels good and the rapport with the guys is still there. We've just got to continue to have that upward trend.''
After Fitzpatrick took over last summer for the injured Geno Smith, who had his jaw broken by a punch from a teammate in the locker room, he quickly got up to speed in Chan Gailey's offense and thrived. The Jets' offense ranked 10th overall in the NFL last year, and they were 11th with 24.2 points per game.
Marshall set the team records with 109 receptions and 1,502 yards receiving.
''He is a freak of nature,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''He makes my job easy.''
Meanwhile, Decker established the franchise mark with 10 red-zone touchdown catches. Marshall and Decker, with Fitzpatrick throwing the ball to them, broke the NFL mark for the most games with teammates catching at least one touchdown pass in the same game at 10 games.
''We'll always be a work in progress,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''We're always kind of working to get exactly on the same page with timing and depth and all of that stuff.''
With Fitzpatrick back and the addition of running back Matt Forte, New York's offense is expected to be very productive again this season.
''We've got to get better,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''We did some things that were OK last year, but there's a lot of things that we can improve on. We've just got to become a smarter football team.''
NOTES: Both CB Darrelle Revis (wrist) and RB Matt Forte (hamstring) remained out of team drills. There's no timetable on when they might fully practice. ... Bowles said he's ''a quote guy'' when it comes to choosing material to motivate his team. ''Einstein, Socrates, some ex-football coaches that have played over the years that you've stumbled across,'' Bowles said. ''Some from baseball quotes and some from basketball. You just look and you learn and you see what applies to what you can fit and use it for.''
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