Ryan Fitzpatrick was back at practice today, and even though the Jets quarterback only did a little throwing before observing the rest of the team's practice ahead of Sunday's game at Houston, he made his timeline to return to the starting lineup from his thumb injury very ho-hum.
"I definitely will do a lot more tomorrow," Fitzpatrick said matter-of-factly at his locker right after practice. "I think it was a pretty positive day today in terms of being out there and throwing."
So then you plan on starting Sunday?
"Yes" was his one-word answer.
But let's get real. We're talking about a football player preparing to butt heads and bang hands with live opponents less than two weeks after undergoing left thumb surgery. Yes, the procedure lasted only "about an hour or so." Yes, it was to his thumb, his left thumb. But it was indeed surgery.
"I think that's why so many of the guys respect him in the locker room," wideout Brandon Marshall said a few minutes later, "because at this point everyone's banged up. You have guys that want to milk it a little bit or may not have the grit or the toughness to push through. And he does, so we respect that."
To be sure, Fitzpatrick played with the injured thumb for the win over Jacksonville and the loss to the Bills. He wasn't sure if Houston would be in the cards but he's passing all the mile markers so far.
"I wasn't sure really what to expect, to be honest," he said. "Coming out of surgery, I didn't feel great the first couple of days, just groggy and trying to get over that. But I feel a lot better today than I did yesterday, and hopefully I'll take the same step tomorrow."
Todd Bowles isn't committing totally to the Fitz-as-starter outcome just yet. "I can tell you tomorrow," said the head coach. But he also knows how this play has been diagrammed and is being executed.
"That was the whole plan, just to have him throw some today, take some more snaps tomorrow. He should feel significantly better," Bowles said, adding that Geno Smith practiced well with the first team and that "if somehow Fitz doesn't play, we're more than confident that Geno can do the job."
Something more than plain competitive drive could be pushing Fitzpatrick toward this start. He downplayed it as he did with the surgery, but you can hear it in his words: He wants a shot at the Texans, his team of last season.
"I've got a lot of buddies on the other sideline, so that's part of it," he said. "And I've been on enough teams now where you don't hold grudges. But I was on that team last year, I was still under contract, and now I'm on this team this year. The fact that they didn't necessarily want me at the end of the year plays into it a little bit for me."
But Fitzpatrick assured that it's not that big of an issue for him, perhaps just enough to help the healing along while giving him that little extra edge.
"We're out there trying to win a game and get back on track," he said, "so the personal stuff has to be set aside and I've got to try to win a football game."