Following a tumultuous off-season around the NFL, players around the league are reporting to team facilities Tuesday for the first time in a very, very long time.
The first one at the door at One Bills Drive comes as no surprise. It's the player that organized the workouts in both Arizona and Buffalo all throughout the NFL Lockout. It's also been the player referred to as 'the guy' on several occasions.
That man is starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
“I keep driving by the stadium. I’ve been antsy to get in here," said the Bills QB. "My wife was asking me why I was leaving so early. I’ve been dying to get in here.”
The jovial Fitzpatrick presumably entered One Bills Drive Tuesday a different man than he's been throughout his entire professional career. For the very first time, Fitzpatrick waltzed through the doors in Orchard Park knowing the job is his for the entire season.
"I feel it’s an important step for me this year, but I think it’s going to put us that much more ahead only because right now this is my show from the very beginning and we’re able to build on some of the good things we did last year, remarked Fitzpatrick. "We have a lot of the same pieces and a lot of the same players, and just that communication that has been built up, the respect, the trust, I think that’s really important going into the season.”
The Bills starting signal caller has been the biggest proponent of getting players together to workout while the lockout was ongoing. He helped organize a week-long workout in June where almost 40 players showed up ready to progress as a team.
"It doesn't surprise me in the least," said head coach Chan Gailey about Fitzpatrick organizing the workouts. "You would anticipate your quarterback being the guy that leads if not completely, for the most part you would expect your quarterback to do that. I was not surprised and I fully expected it."
General Manager Buddy Nix echoed those sentiments.
"You know that part might have been an advantage maybe because Fitz had to take over," remarked Nix. "And I think he was ready for that, I think this is the first time he's been 'the guy' going in and I think all the teams did a good job with that. But we're pleased -- what we hear, we don't know anything -- but what we hear."
As far as the shortened time frame for players to get ready for the season goes, Fitzptrick knows he'll be ready -- as will the rest of his team.
“I’m not concerned at all. I think we’re going to be fine. I think there might be more sloppiness in the preseason," said Fitzpatrick. "That first week of practice there are going to be some adjustments that have to be made, but I think with the amount of time that we have now to prepare for the first game we’re going to be fine.”
Just to show you what type of effect Fitzpatrick has on his teammates, not even ten minutes in to his first press conference this year at One Bills Drive, his teammate Levi Brown burst in to the room and said something along the lines of "Come on Fitz! Let's go! We have work to do!" Fitzpatrick cracked a smile, and calmly followed through with the rest of the questioning.
It just proves the poise of being a starting quarterback in the NFL has to be apparent every day.