Zarnell Fitch (97) on the Frankfurt Galaxy
This is the second of a four-part series on the Jets players participating in NFL Europa this spring.
Zarnell Fitch has had to be light on his feet in going over to Germany to play some football and practice the craft of his position.
The defensive tackle was signed to the New York Jets' practice squad in December and to a futures contract in January, and at 6'2" and 325 pounds, you might sense that the Green & White are interested in seeing him as a space-eating nose.
But that's not always how he's lined up for the Frankfurt Galaxy.
"We're playing a different defense than what we're running with the Jets," Fitch said last week before Frankfurt doused the Rhein Fire, 23-10, on Saturday night. "I was learning a certain way and then I had to change ways. In the 3-4 they're looking for me to be 320, 325. This is a one-gap defense and you've got to be quicker, so I lost a little weight."
But Fitch isn't concerned with the alterations to his game. For one thing, he still gets some two-gap work when Frankfurt shifts to its Bear alignment and he's the nose guard on a five-man line.
And the big Texan, who was considered TCU's top DT as a senior, in 2005 won't have any problem getting his weight back up.
"We're good about having salads and different things like that. We have a safety on our team, he's very conscious of his body and he took me under his wing. We're always eating salads and fruits," he said. "But they've got good food over here. I like schnitzel."
As in breaded and deep-fried chicken or veal. The Schnitzel Diet is sure to keep Fitch in the widebody class.
He's been holding his own in Europe. He split the first six starts with Remi Ayodele, the Dallas Cowboy and kid brother of Akin Ayodele, before the two started side-by-side in the middle vs. Rhein. He's got 12 tackles and two pass defenses, one of them an interception in Game 3.
Three months in Europe could be a little distracting for anyone who's never been there before. Indeed, part of the weekly regimen for many players is getting in some sightseeing in between practices and games.
But Fitch has his experience in perspective. He's done a little shopping in downtown Frankfurt, but the Galaxy were tied with the Cologne Centurions for first place at 4-2 heading into Game 7, so his major tour will wait. And when he does travel, it will be outside of Germany.
"I'm going to Rome and see the Colosseum," he said. "I like to see historical places, things that have been standing for millions of years. That's the kind of person I am."
By showing his versatility and skill in NFL Europa this spring, Fitch will give himself his best chance of remaining standing at the end of the Jets' training camp near the end of summer.