- - Thursday, July 28, 2016

It took an uncomfortably long time for the New York Jets to get 33-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick under contract, but the two sides finally found a deal they could agree on.

Fitzpatrick signed a one-year, $12 million deal on Wednesday. Now, Fitzpatrick can begin to focus on the football season ahead, a comforting feeling for the 12-year pro.

“Oh my gosh, it’s been a long six months for sure,” Fitzpatrick told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “The biggest feeling was relief. Just relief to have it over and done with. And then when I was driving in (Wednesday night to the team facility) and walking up to the team meeting, it was like the first day of school. I was just all excited to see everybody and to be back in the building.”

Fitzpatrick wasn’t allowed to go in the Jets‘ practice facilities during his contractless offseason, an awkward dilemma, considering Fitzpatrick lives just 10 minutes from New York’s practice facility. New York‘s’ training camp starts on July 28th, but Fitzpatrick still missed out on optional training days and additional condition exercises. So, how did he train in this unique offseason? He had a few helpers.

“It wasn’t easy,” Fitzpatrick told Mehta. “I was chasing around my five kids and throwing the ball to my brother, who played tight end in college.”

“I’ll definitely have to knock off some rust for the next week or two, because I haven’t really been throwing to wide receivers, especially with guys with this speed,” Fitzpatrick continued. “But that will all come in the next few weeks. … I think I’ll just be thrown in there. There’s probably a little bit of rust that needs to be knocked off, but it is like riding a bike.”

The Jets‘ quarterback is coming off one of his best seasons ever as a professional. For just the third time in his career, Fitzpatrick managed to start all 16 games in the season. He also set a career high in total passing yards, with 3,905, as well as passing touchdowns, with 31. Those 31 passing touchdowns ranked 10th in the NFL.

The signing allows the Jets to bring in a veteran presence in New York at a position that may need it the most. Next on the depth chart is fourth-year pro Geno Smith, a 2013 second-round draft pick.

Smith has struggled mightily in his first few seasons as a pro, recording 35 total interceptions and just 27 touchdowns in 31 career games. Smith also infamously started the last season with a broken jaw following an altercation with ex-teammate IK Enemkpali, opening the door for Fitzpatrick in New York.

While the 25-year-old Smith’s day as a starting quarterback may come, there is significantly more comfort with Fitzpatrick commanding the offense.

The Jets open up the season against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 11. With the always lethal New England Patriots within the same AFC East division, New York has an outside chance at a division championship season, but they will certainly find themselves in the mix for a potential Wild Card spot.

That’s what Fitzpatrick is now focused on. And while his offseason is one he never hopes happens again, he’s ready to get the ball rolling in New York.

“This whole process has been so long and hard and something I wouldn’t wish upon anybody, but if there’s a silver lining in it, at least for me, it’s the respect and support that those guys showed for me throughout the process,” Fitzpatrick continued with Mehta. “It was huge. That’s why you play the game. You play the game for your teammates, who really want to play with and for you. That was big for me…. I felt like I had to get back for those guys. I’m glad that we’re going to be able to get to work today.”

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