Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick found out he was being released by the team on a flight from New York City to Arizona. The news didn't surprise the Bills captain, saying there had been an open dialogue with general manager Buddy Nix.
"Throughout the process, maybe the last few weeks or so, I've been in constant communication with Buddy talking things out, trying to figure out some sort of solution to the roster bonus, the salary and all that," said Fitzpatrick in a phone conversation with Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 in Buffalo Tuesday night. "This isn't something that all of a sudden was thrown at me [and] I was blindsided by it. This is something that we talked about for a week or two. It was a lot of just private conversations. It was nice for it to be kind of left between me and him and not played out through the media. It stinks. I really did enjoy being a Buffalo Bill, and unfortunately we couldn't get anything worked out."
In confirming that the Bills did in fact ask him to restructure his contract to stay with the team, he wouldn't go into specifics.
"There were discussions about it," said Fitzpatrick. "I don't want to get in to all the numbers and what everything was talked about. It was just one of those things we just couldn't agree on and didn't come close to agreeing on."
The signal caller was due a $3 million bonus on March 13th and $7 million in base salary for the 2013 season. Having already paid the quarterback roughly $18 million over the past two seasons, another $10 million wasn't appealing to Nix who reportedly offered an incentive-laden deal for roughly $3 million a season in base figures.
Fitzpatrick kept coming back to the non-football side of the move. He talked about his neighbors, the fans, and his kids and how their reactions would affect him the most. We'll leave it to you to explore those comments on Buscaglia's excellent post while we stick to football. Through the whole conversation, he never blamed Nix or questioned the decision. He even expressed empathy over the leaked phone conversation between Nix and Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik.
"I can't say Buddy didn't give me my fair shot," said Fitzpatrick. "I had a couple of years to go in there and make things happen, and it just didn't work out. They're ready to move on and so we've got to move on."
He leaves a checkered tenure in Buffalo. He led amazing fourth quarter comebacks including the first victory over the New England Patriots since 2003. He also had some low moments throwing game-clinching interceptions.
"The first one playing wise that popped in my head is when we beat New England and just kind of the way the fans had reacted to that victory," Fitzpatrick recalled. "The fever within Buffalo, I mean all that was really cool. Watching Fred kind of throw the flag around after the game in appreciation of the fans. That might be maybe the biggest highlight for me in my playing days in Buffalo."
They did find some time for levity, as well. Fitzpatrick made a joke about having to help his wife with his bags from the trip. Buscaglia ended his questions with an inquiry about the "FitzScream", a sound emitted from the quarterback after throwing the game-winning touchdown pass on fourth down to cap a ferocious comeback against the Oakland Raiders in 2011. WGR got a lot of play out of that short, girlish exclamation.
"That was just pure and utter joy," said Fitzpatrick laughing. "That was, I don't know, unbridled enthusiasm. That was me just out there, having fun, playing football, giggling like a school girl with all my teammates. That's all you can ask out of those games. To go out there and just to have fun and to have that enthusiasm. That will be one of my fondest and most embarrassing moments of the Bills."
Fitzpatrick enters a thin free agent pool at quarterback. With several teams quarterback spots still up in the air, he shouldn't be out of work for long. For now, he's leaving that worry up to his agent.