There is a feeling floating through the Tampa Bay area that the Bucs are onto something special, perhaps sooner rather than later.
Apparently the feeling is contagious as newly, signed backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick told the media on Tuesday he is sensing it too. And not just on the outside of the building, but within the walls as well.
“It’s a great facility… It’s really close to the airport, that stood out to me,” Fitzpatrick said. “But honestly, I think it’s the guys on the team, just the youthful energy. It was nice that on my first day – I don’t know if it was because of me or not – but Dirk took us to Top Golf. I thought that was a nice treat. Even there, in that setting with all the guys, it’s something that’s hard to do or get in the NFL because people change teams so much, but there’s something special going on in the locker room here in terms of the camaraderie. More so than the building or the rooms – this facility is great but I think it was just the overall camaraderie of the guys.”
Fitzpatrick, who has 116 career starts and has thrown for 25,888 yards and 166 touchdowns, said he has been a fan of head coach Dirk Koetter for a long time.
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“I talked to Dirk [Koetter] a few times on the phone and this is a team, just being in the NFL for a while you kind of – I’m a fan, I keep my eye on things – they did a lot of good things last year,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think it’s a team that’s on the rise. Just personnel-wise – even now being here, just kind of the feeling of everybody in the locker room, out there on the field, in meetings, in the weight room. I don’t know if it’s a young team or I’m really old; one of the two. But so far so good, just in terms of the energy in this building and I think the confidence of the guys.
“I mean, the first thing that stood out to me is that he was about 16 years late in calling me, because I wanted to go to Arizona State. Just from mutual friends and coaches that I’ve played here, I’ve heard a lot of great things about Dirk. Even just from our phone conversations you can tell he’s a fairly relaxed guy, in terms of he’s not going to get too worked up over the little things. He’s going to stay even. That’s at least what I’ve seen so far. I know when stuff starts happening on Sunday maybe it’s a little bit different, but he’s got a real cool demeanor to him.”
The former Harvard standout knows he is here strictly as a backup, and most likely won’t get on the field unless there is an injury to Winston.
“I mean, there’s a reality to the NFL, too, which is – especially at quarterback – there’s 32 guys that go in as a starter and I didn’t have that option,” Fitzpatrick said. “And so I looked at different situations, and like I said (this is) a team that I think is going to be really good this year. I didn’t know Jameis [Winston] at all but just in the last two days getting a chance to talk to him and watch the way that he interacts with the guys, just how much he loves football. I think there’s a lot of things that I’ll be able to help him with, that I’ll bring to the room just through experience, good things and bad things, being on a bunch of different teams and going through a bunch of different things.”
Earlier in the day Koetter was asked in what way Fitzpatrick could help Winston the most.
“Well, just experience,” Koetter said. “There’s still some things that Jameis hasn’t seen that he will see. Or, when they’re in the quarterback room watching tape together, defenses are so good at changing up their looks and disguising coverages that I’m sure Ryan has seen just about everything that there is to see. The fact that Ryan is a pocket passer like Jameis is, he’s going to see similar looks over the course of his career. Just another guy for Jameis to bounce things off. Between me, myself and Mike Bajakian, we have exactly zero NFL starts. A guy that’s actually done it versus a guy that sits in a chair and watches it on tape, that’s – in any business, I think experience counts.”
Winston agreed with his head coach.
QBs Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“Very valuable and us having another Ryan in the room is really going to help us because like you said, you said it, it’s experience,” Winston said. “He’s seen things that I may not have seen and he just has that wisdom that he is willing to pass on and I see that in him already. He’s helping me out there on the field. It’s his first day here, so the communication in that quarterback room is mutual. Everyone communicates, everyone has their ideas and we’re always throwing out suggestions just for the betterment of this team.”
Knowing he has been regulated to second strong most likely doesn’t sit well with the competitive Fitzpatrick, but as a veteran he knows his number could be called at any time.
“I have to be prepared, I’ve got two roles and one is really to get myself ready to play if I have to go in there and do the best I can to keep the ship headed in the right direction,” Fitzpatrick said. “Also, as we talked about earlier, just being another set of eyes for Jameis, another voice in that room, a guy that has played and been in different situations. I think that I’ve shown throughout my career, when not being the starter, if my number’s called I can go in there and get the job done. I’ve had to do that a number of times and I’m pretty decent at that role.”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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