FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Fitz is in.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the New York Jets’ starting quarterback Sunday against the New England Patriots, with coach Todd Bowles making the announcement after practice Monday.
“He’s healthy, he’s been our starter,” Bowles said. “I don’t see anything that could change that right now.”
Fitzpatrick sat out the Jets’ previous game against Los Angeles on Nov. 13 with a sprained left knee. Bryce Petty made his first regular-season NFL start and went 19 of 32 for 163 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the 9-6 loss.
Bowles said last week that he would consider which quarterback would give the Jets (3-7) the best chance of winning against the Patriots (8-2).
“He’s been playing all year,” Bowles said of Fitzpatrick. “He knows more of the system. He can do more things. He’s been the starter. I don’t give away jobs. You’ve got to take a job. Bryce has gotten better and he’ll be ready to play if called upon.”
Still, Bowles said he was leaning all along toward choosing Fitzpatrick, as long as the quarterback showed he was healthy enough to practice and play this week. He just needed Fitzpatrick to practice Monday to reaffirm his decision.
“I’m excited to get out there and play versus New England and just try to rally our guys,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is something I really enjoy doing and really enjoy doing it with these guys in the locker room, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Fitzpatrick is tied with Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles for the NFL lead with 13 interceptions, and his 67.6 quarterback rating is the worst among quarterbacks with 150 or more passing attempts. He was benched earlier in the season in favor of Geno Smith. But Fitzpatrick regained his job when Smith was lost for the season with a torn knee ligament.
When Fitzpatrick hurt his knee at Miami on Nov. 6, many fans and media figured it was the perfect opportunity for the Jets to play Petty the rest of the way to see what they have in last year’s fourth-round draft pick instead of a veteran who likely won’t be re-signed as a free agent in the offseason.
And, if Petty faltered, the Jets could theoretically give second-rounder Christian Hackenberg a look for the final game or two. That, however, is a philosophy Bowles doesn’t subscribe to.
“I actually know quite a bit about both of them, so it’s not paramount for them to play right now,” Bowles said.
“And, right now, Fitz gives us the best option. You don’t have to play a person just to see what they have. Petty’s time will come. So, we’ll be patient with that.”
With the players back at the facility for the first time since last Tuesday following a bye-week break, Fitzpatrick was able to test out his knee after having two full weeks to heal.
“Just getting treatments over the bye was nice,” he said, “and then today at practice just going out there and making sure that it felt as good as I thought it would, which it did.”
Fitzpatrick will play with a brace on the knee, something that gives him “extra peace of mind.” He also insisted it will not affect his play or mobility.
Many fans hailed the Jets for re-signing Fitzpatrick to a one-year, $12 million deal on the eve of training camp.
He was coming off a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes, and New York finished a win out of the playoffs at 10-6. But his brutal start and the piling losses had many of those same fans ready to turn the page on the veteran and look ahead to the younger quarterbacks.
“I think we play for each other, we play for the name on our jerseys, we play for a lot of different things,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s been a tough year, but we all still enjoy this game and playing with each other, so we’re going to go out there and give it everything we have.”
For Petty, it’s back to being a backup — and waiting for another opportunity.
“Nothing’s changed for me,” Petty said. “That’s Coach’s decision, so I’m going to respect that. He knows what’s best for the team.”
When asked if he was disappointed in the Jets going back to Fitzpatrick, Petty sidestepped the question.
“My feelings are irrelevant,” he said. “They really are. I’m not going to focus on me because that takes away from the team. Again, nothing’s changed and I’ll continue to prepare like I’m the starter and get better every day.”
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