Fitzpatrick will try to get Bucs off to good start

by Gary Shelton on August 8, 2018 · 4 comments

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Ryan Fitzpatrick will start for Bucs./STEVEN MUNCIE

Ryan Fitzpatrick will start for Bucs./STEVEN MUNCIE

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

Just shy of his 36th birthday, it is fair to say that no one expected Ryan Fitzpatrick to still be starting in the National Football League.

Yet, a day before the Bucs' preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins, here he is, still attempting to lead an offense downfield. Fitzpatrick will start Thursday night, and if he can stay healthy, he should start the regular season against New Orleans in four weeks.

It's odd. A year ago, Fitzpatrick was the object of derision for quarterbacks who were no longer in the league. But after winning

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two of his three starts last year, fans have re-assessed. There is hope he can keep the Bucs upright until starter Jameis Winston returns from suspension.

That means the Bucs are trying to work with both Winston and Fitzpatrick in training camp. Not that the game results will matter a lot.

“I think a success in the preseason game is coming out healthy, everyday coming out healthy," Fitzpatrick said. "It’s good in that we’ve been banging heads with the same guys day-in and day-out. So, we get to go against a different scheme, some guys that we don’t know so well, and they don’t know us so well; just to go out there and run our base stuff and execute a little bit just to get that game feel back. Even going through warm-ups, and pre-game and reestablishing that routine.”

Fitzpatrick says he's enjoying himself.

“I feel good,"Fitzpatrick said. "The biggest thing with the reps with me is how does your arm feel? (Are) you throwing too much? And definitely not. The reps have stepped up a little bit, but not a ton. I’d say now that the reps that I do take are a little more meaningful than the ones that I had all of last year just in terms of working with twos and threes. I feel really good physically. My arm feels great. Going into year 14 I couldn’t ask for my body to feel any better, probably.”

Fitzpatrick and the Bucs have been working in the red zone, a place where team frustrations boiled over last year. The Bucs were 24th in the league.

“Red zone especially against your own team, they’ve seen your plays, you’ve seen their defenses, so sometimes it gets a little bit tough, in terms of people being able to read some routes," Fitzpatrick said. "It makes us have to be very efficient and good at what we do, precise down there. That’s important. If you look at the guys we have, the size we have, we should be a pretty good red zone team in that regard. My favorite play today was probably O.J. (Howard) going up and getting one in the corner of the end zone. That was a ball that yesterday, or a few days ago, he had one like that and didn’t come down with it. He was upset with himself and worked on it, and worked on it, and brought that one down so that was nice to see.”

Even at his age, Fitzpatrick is able to run the ball. He has 2,075 yards rushing in his career.

“He’s got over 2,000 yards rushing in his career, so we kid the other quarterbacks about how far behind they are to that 2,000," Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter said. "Griff’s exactly 2,000 behind him. He’s gaining one yard at a time. I think Fitz has always been a good runner. Part of being a good running quarterback is just knowing when to pull it down and go straight ahead – not waste time going sideways. I think Fitz does a good job of that.

"We prefer he didn’t get hit and we can control it for the most part in practice. That’s where one of the points of emphasis this year is the new slide rule. A quarterback, to declare yourself down, you don’t have to go feet first any more, you can go head first. One thing they’re going to tighten up is where the first spot is – they’re not going to let them slide for two or three yards. Fitz is going to have to take care of himself. That’s where he’s got to be smart.”

Said Fitzpatrick: “It’s definitely instinctive. It’s something I’ve always been able to do a little bit and have some success with. I think at times it will keep defenses honest with what they do. It’s not what I’m trying to do. I do it when necessary. The new rule they made this year matters a little bit. Giving yourself up feet first was always the deal, and now as a quarterback dives head first, he’s also considered giving himself up. My awkward sliding ability, that rule probably helps me a little bit to avoid a few more hits.”

Fitzpatrick said that Winston and he are on the same page.

“Jameis has been great," Fitzpatrick said. "There hasn’t been a change with him in terms of the way he’s attacking the game, the way he’s been in the meeting rooms, the amount of time that he’s putting in, the amount of work that he is putting in right now, he’s been awesome. When we first started practicing, the one thing that we stressed to each other was open lines of communication. If there was something that was either bothering me, or something that I felt needed to change, and have open lines of communication with Dirk [Koetter] and Jameis. I think those two are the same way with me, and with each other. It’s been fluid, and we’re continuing to work through it, but I think Jameis has been great.”








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