Fitzpatrick confident, eases back into role as Jets starter
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Brandon Marshall's lime green T-shirt said it all.
Emblazoned on the New York Jets wide receiver's chest were the words ''Fitz Magic 2.0'' with an orange beard protruding from a small white and green helmet.
The shirts were made in the offseason, but with Ryan Fitzpatrick back as the Jets' starting quarterback, Marshall dusted one off and wore it.
''I thought it would be perfect timing,'' a smiling Marshall said Wednesday.
Fitzpatrick went from struggling starter to frustrated backup and back to the man under center for the Jets in a span of a week. With Geno Smith out for the season, it's Fitzpatrick's turn again - and he has every intention of keeping his job this time around.
After coming on in relief of the injured Smith last Sunday, Fitzpatrick helped lead the Jets on three scoring drives in a 24-16 victory over Baltimore. The veteran quarterback talked about continuing to have confidence, even after saying that the Jets' brass - owner Woody Johnson, general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles, among others - had lost faith in him after 11 interceptions in six starts.
On Wednesday, Fitzpatrick insisted he did not regret his postgame comments.
''The underlying message there, really, is I believe in myself,'' he said. ''That's kind of what I'd like to even get across today. You don't make it as long as I have in the league and playing on as many teams as I have been on in the league, having to pick myself up over and over again, without believing in yourself.''
Some fans and media thought Fitzpatrick's comments were selfish, possibly taking away from the victory. They were also a bit surprising from the quarterback, who rarely makes any controversy with his mouth.
''I don't really care how they were construed,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''That's what I was talking about. We're here to play football. I think the biggest thing is we need to win games. I stand before you guys every week, even after getting benched. I was disappointed that I got benched, but I was disappointed in the way that I had played, too.
''There's a lot of things that I'm continuing to work on, but I continue to keep the faith in myself.''
Fitzpatrick indicated that he spoke with Bowles about his comments, and neither seemed to think it was an issue at this point.
''Basically, the discussion has been: we're all here to do the same thing, which is to win football games,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''It doesn't matter how it happens. This business, he always says, is a show-me business. This business is based on production. And you've got to go out there and produce.
''That's what I'm working at right now and that's what I intend to do for the rest of the year.''
Fitzpatrick is set to start at Cleveland on Sunday, just a week after not knowing if he'd ever play a snap for New York again.
Bowles opted to turn back to Fitzpatrick, who set a franchise record last season with 31 touchdown passes, rather than inexperienced youngsters Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. The coach wouldn't rule out one of them playing at some point this season, but both Petty, a fourth-rounder last year, and Hackenberg, a second-rounder this year, need some more time to develop.
So, for now, at least, it's back to Fitzpatrick.
''I'm expecting Fitz Magic 2.0,'' Marshall said, playing off his T-shirt. ''We need it right now.''
Fitzpatrick will face a team against whom he is 4-1 in his career, with eight touchdowns and four interceptions in those games against the Browns.
While that's a solid history of performances, Fitzpatrick will be motivated by even more against 0-7 Cleveland. He embraces the underdog label he has held throughout his career as a seventh-round draft pick out of Harvard in 2005 who has bounced around the league and played for six NFL teams.
He said he plays better when he's angry, and right about now, he's pretty ticked.
''My angry is probably a little different than other people's angry,'' he said. ''My angry is still pretty controlled. I think that has been a mentality that I've had my whole career in terms of what I feel about myself versus plenty of doubters out there. There are other things that drive me, I think, that may help me with my play. Getting these guys winning games again and getting us as a team playing well again, that's the stuff that we have to continue to try to work on.''
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