Fitzpatrick competes for Dolphins job while helping Rosen
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — It didn’t take Ryan Fitzpatrick long to get re-acclimated to a familiar setting.
The journeyman quarterback who’s preparing for his 15th NFL season is back on the practice fields at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ training facility this week, this time competing for a starting job with the Miami Dolphins.
Fitzpatrick spent the past two seasons with the Bucs, mostly as a backup to 2015 No. 1 overall draft pick Jameis Winston.
With the Dolphins, he’s trying to beat out second-year pro Josh Rosen, another young passer hoping to prove he’s a franchise QB.
“Being on eight teams, this has happened more than once, where I’ve gotten to go back,” Fitzpatrick said of this homecoming for a pair of joint workouts leading to Friday night’s preseason game between his last two employers.
“It’s really cool. man. Just him being back here in Tampa,” Winston said Wednesday. “He’s a fun-loving guy ... a great leader.”
Fitzpatrick also was a big help to the Bucs’ quarterback, generously sharing knowledge and experience gleaned from a meandering career that also includes stops with the Rams, Bengals, Bills, Titans, Texans and Jets.
Now, he’s doing the same with Miami, even though he and Rosen are competing for the starting job.
Coach Brian Flores has declared Fitzpatrick the leader in the competition, however Rosen may be closing the gap after directing three scoring drives in last week’s preseason opener and getting some work with the Dolphins’ No. 1 offense in joint practices against Tampa Bay.
Rosen said Fitzpatrick has been “unbelievably helpful ... probably one of the best mentors I’ve had in the sport.”
“It’s pretty impressive how he can just sort of walk up to the line and see (things) and just know what front, what coverage, everything they’re trying to do, and I’m just trying to get to that level,” Rosen said.
“I think I have a sort of special skillset, so that when I can put those two together, it can be special,” the young quarterback added. “But it’s going to be a long road, a lot of film, a lot of studying, and I’m just indebted to Fitz for how selfless he’s being.”
As far as Fitzpatrick is concerned, it’s part of the job.
He became the first player in NFL history to throw for over 400 yards in three consecutive games, leading Tampa Bay to a 2-1 start last season while Winston was serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
Winston was inconsistent when he returned, briefly losing the starting job before regaining it and playing well enough down the stretch that the Bucs brought him back for the final year of his rookie contract at a salary of nearly $21 million.
“I think last year was a difficult situation for a lot of different reasons; but I also look at the way he played down the stretch and he played some really good football,” Fitzpatrick said about his decision to sign with Miami in the offseason.
“For me at least, football is a lot more fun when I’m out there playing,” he added. “Having the opportunity to go to Miami and compete, that’s why I decided to do what I did.”
Rosen took some snaps with the first team offense during Tuesday’s workout in Tampa, then worked exclusively with the starters on Wednesday.
Flores said no conclusions should be drawn from the way the workload was divided the past two days, adding it had more to do with wanting both quarterbacks to benefit from various looks presented by Tampa Bay’s defense.
“Fitz saw it (Tuesday). We wanted Josh to see it see it (Wednesday), and that’s really what that was. ... From what I saw, I thought he had a good day. He’s heading in the right direction,” said Flores, who later downplayed whether Rosen is closer to becoming No. 1.
“Look, it’s a competition and it’s a competition at every position,” the rookie coach said. “I think my job is to help these guys become the best players they can possibly be. And the competition is part of that. Who’s leading? Who’s not leading? That’s irrelevant to me. I want these guys to get better and improve every day. That’ where I’m at with it.”
Flores had even less to say about how whether there’s concern about whether running back Kenyan Drake will be ready to return by next month’s regular season opener after injuring his right foot.
Drake was wearing a walking boot Wednesday after limping off the practice field the previous day.
“We take things day-to-day here. The opener’s down the road,” Flores said. “He’s got a little injury, and I think ... he’s just going to take it day-to-day. He’s got a great attitude about it. I think he’ll be OK.”