Jets QB Geno Smith focused on himself, not Ryan Fitzpatrick

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Thursday, May 26, 2016

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith, elevated to the starting role during Ryan Fitzpatrick's contract impasse, said Wednesday he's trying to embrace the opportunity -- albeit one that could be short-lived.

"Every player in the NFL, I think, deserves a fair opportunity," Smith said after practice, speaking to reporters for the first time since the end of the season. "Whether or not that's the case [for me], who knows? I believe I do have an opportunity here and I just have to take advantage of it."

The Jets have made it clear Fitzpatrick will return to his starting job if he re-signs with the team. Coach Todd Bowles said he's "hopeful" Fitzpatrick will be back by training camp, which puts Smith in an awkward situation.

Smith got testy with a reporter who asked if he wants Fitzpatrick to return.

"That's up to the front office and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Why would I speak on that?" Smith bristled, refusing to answer any follow-up questions from that particular reporter.

As expected, Smith received the first-team reps in the team's second offseason practice, the first open to the media. Bryce Petty and rookie Christian Hackenberg handled the second- and third-team reps, respectively, although the coaches haven't defined their current positions on the depth chart.

Three of Fitzpatrick's most outspoken supporters -- Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Nick Mangold -- skipped practice for the second straight day. Bowles, noting the practices are voluntary, downplayed their absences, saying he doesn't believe the players are trying to make a statement.

But that may be only partially true. Decker stayed away because he's upset with the organization for not having signed Fitzpatrick by now, the New York Post reported. It's unclear if Marshall's absence was Fitzpatrick-related, and Mangold was home because his wife gave birth.

All three players, among others, have voiced their support for Fitzpatrick throughout the offseason, speaking out publicly on the importance of re-signing the 33-year-old quarterback.

"I don't think they've said anything negative about me," said Smith, shrugging it off. "I do understand those guys. ... We all had a wonderful year last year. I don't want to speak on anyone else's statements, but it doesn't rub me the wrong way."

Interestingly, the Jets haven't given away Fitzpatrick's locker stall. It remains empty, with no nameplate above it.

Bowles, who seems to have grown weary of answering Fitzpatrick-related question, said he had no updates regarding negotiations. He said he doesn't broach the topic with general manager Mike Maccagnan.

"Just tell me when it's done," said Bowles, repeating what he says to Maccagnan.

The Jets haven't affixed a deadline to the Fitzpatrick situation, except to say they'd like it resolved by the starting of training camp in late July.

He's missing practice time, but it's not a big concern, according to Bowles.

"If you look at it, we were in the same boat last year," he said.

Smith was the presumptive starter last spring, with Fitzpatrick on the sideline, rehabbing a broken leg. Everything changed in August, when Smith's jaw was broken by a teammate in a locker-room altercation.

In other news, cornerback Darrelle Revis (wrist surgery) and recently acquired left tackle Ryan Clady (knee surgery) are sitting out drills. Bowles said he's hopeful they will be ready to go by training camp.

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