Fitz­patrick will start for Jets vs. Pa­tri­ots

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Den­nis Waszak Jr.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. >> Fitz is in. Again. 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 (37) 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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