Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson confirmed to NBC Sports on Friday what Bills fans had long assumed: quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played more than half of the 2011 season injured. Nelson told Doug Flutie that Fitzpatrick cracked ribs during the team's Week 8 win over the Washington Redskins.
"A lot of people don't know, but Fitz during the Washington game actually cracked a couple of ribs. So after that, he was playing hurt," Nelson confirmed to Flutie.
As we noted last month, Fitzpatrick's statistical output took a nosedive after Redskins linebacker London Fletcher hit the quarterback hard in the first half of the Bills' 23-0 win. Below, you can see how Fitzpatrick's pre-Fletcher hit numbers stand up next to the post-hit output. The results aren't surprising now that we know that Fitzpatrick had cracked ribs.
Pre-Injury: 67% completions, 7.6 yards per attempt, 13 TD, 7 INT
Post-Injury: 59% completions, 6.2 yards per attempt, 11 TD, 16 INT
Perhaps Fitzpatrick was going to take a statistical nosedive anyway, and the injury catalyzed that process; perhaps we can justifiably excuse some of Fitzpatrick's poor second-half play, knowing what we know now. Interpret this how you will; the most interesting thing to me is that both Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey glossed this detail over to reporters when they were perfectly willing to find scapegoats (see: Edwards, George) anywhere else.