While Day-1 of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp practice was about starting quarterback Jameis Winston, the focus on Day-2 shifted to the quarterback who will start the first three games of the season during Winston’s three-game suspension to start the regular season.
When it comes to veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, he’s never been the most explosive or accurate quarterback in the NFL, but he’s stuck around this long because he might be one of the, if not the smartest players at the position.
While Dirk Koetter would clearly rather not be answering questions about his quarterback being suspended and would love to be able to roll with Winston from snap one, there’s a clear level of comfort in having a veteran quarterback who you know what you’re going to get from for the Buccaneers head coach.
“We’re blessed to have three quarterbacks that know our system, so we’re not trying to train a guy, and he’s played games in our system,” Koetter said about having Fitzpatrick under center to start the year. “Guys, we’re not gonna miss a beat with Ryan at quarterback. I don’t know if everybody’s worried about that or not, but I’m certainly not.”
Whether it was when Koetter first saw Fitzpatrick during his high school career, or now in Buccaneers’ red, Koetter has always been impressed with Fitzpatrick’s ability to play the position, and he talked about how they know what to expect because of what we saw when the veteran back up was pushed into action last season.
“I just think Ryan’s a good football player at any stage of his career,” Koetter said. “I think he’s just got the right moxie to play quarterback. He’s done it for a bunch of different teams, and we’re fortunate enough to have him. We saw what he could do last year when he was our starter last year for three games.”
But coach, what about his arm strength at this point in his career?
“Did you see him throw that 60-yarder right there to Desean?”
While much of the 11-on-11 stuff at practice was unviewable to the media because players lined up in a straight line behind the offense during the first set of 11-on-11’s, the play of the day came when Fitzpatrick found Desean Jackson on a deep ball behind the defense for what was about a 60-yard touchdown. It’s the kind of play the Buccaneers need to see more of this season whether it’s Fitzpatrick or Winston slinging the rock.
Ryan Fitzpatrick spoke after Friday’s practice as well, and while he understands Winston will more than likely be once again placed in the starters role when he returns, he also knows from his many years in the league that NFL is an unpredictable league.
“I’ve learned you view it as a one game at a time opportunity,” Fitzpatrick remarked when asked if he looks at this as an opportunity to possibly play beyond the three games that Winston is suspended. “That’s just the way it is in this league. In 2015 when I played with the Jets I was the backup and it ended up being the whole year with the situation there. In 2016 I was the starter and I ended up getting benched three times during the year, so every year is different. You have to take it game by game and just go from there.”