- The Washington Times - Monday, March 29, 2021

When Ryan Fitzpatrick got wind that Adam Humphries was considering Washington in free agency, the quarterback sent a series of texts to his former teammate, including a few video clips of their connections in Tampa Bay.

One of the highlights included a scrambling Fitzpatrick finding the receiver with an improvised lateral halfway down the field. The crazy play — in a game against Washington, no less — was nullified. But it captured the chemistry between the two. 

“He said, ‘Hey, let’s run it back,’” Humphries said Monday. “‘Let’s do it again.’”

Fitzpatrick may not have been officially recruiting Humphries, but the exchange played a small role when the 28-year-old decided to join Washington on a one-year deal last week. Humphries said getting a chance to reunite with Fitzpatrick “was a big factor” in his decision-making process, having spent two years with the quarterback on the Buccaneers.

Humphries gives Washington a potential upgrade in the slot. In four years with the Buccaneers, Humphries was productive — his best season coming in 2018 when he caught a career-high 76 passes for 816 yards. The 27-year-old, though, will need to prove he’s capable of rediscovering that form following two injury-riddled years with the Tennesee Titans. 

Still, in speaking to reporters Monday, Humphries said he feels “better than ever” and can bring a lot to the table. Humphries chose Washington after meeting in-person with coaches at the team’s headquarters last week. 

“Talking with [offensive coordinator] Scott Turner and some of the offensive staff, it just seemed like a good fit,” Humphries said. “They needed a true slot receiver, and that’s something I can bring to this team.”

Washington is in need of more consistent slot production, which is why they added Humphries even after signing former Panthers receiver Curtis Samuel (another slot option).

Last year, Steven Sims and Isaiah Wright — Washington’s traditional slot receivers — combined for just 38 catches and 336 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. The team made up for the lack of traditional production by inserting tight end Logan Thomas (48 receptions, 431 yards) and Terry McLaurin (31 catches, 431 yards) into the slot for better success. Thomas saw the team’s most snaps in the slot (404), with Sims (230) and Wright (194) behind him. 

So why Humphries? The answer could be because the wide receiver, historically, has had a lot of success against Washington coach Ron Rivera. In nine games against the Carolina Panthers, Rivera’s old team, Humphries caught 37 catches for 390 yards and three touchdowns — Humphries’ best production versus an opponent. 

Only three wideouts — Atlanta’s Julio Jones, New Orleans’ Michael Thomas and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans — hauled in more passes against Rivera’s Panthers from 2015 to 2019, the year when Humphries first entered the league to the season when Rivera was fired from the Panthers.

Humphries said he has “no idea” if his past accomplishments against the Panthers drove Rivera to sign him. But the familiarity likely helped, he said. Humphries said he has long held respect for Rivera, even before entering the NFL. 

Growing up in South Carolina, Humphries used to attend the Panthers’ training camp regularly. That tradition extended to college, where as a student-athlete at Wofford, Humphries said he’d watch Rivera run practices with the rest of the fans there.

“The way he emphasizes culture and accountability, I’m excited to be a part of it,” Humphries said. “I remember going to Carolina’s practices as a kid and being the kid that wanted autographs from (quarterback) Cam Newton and all those guys. 

“Now I’m one of those guys out on the field practicing. Definitely truly blessed to be where I am, and I just want to take advantage of every opportunity.”

Humphries suggested his South Carolina roots could explain why he played his best against the Panthers. He admitted he was aware “everybody from home” would be watching, and he wanted to put on a show. 

For Humphries to impress in Washington, he’ll have to stay healthy. Over the last two seasons with the Titans, he’s missed a combined 13 games with a myriad of injuries. 

Humphries’ best year, however, came with Fitzpatrick throwing him the ball. Back then, Humphries said Fitzpatrick made “everyday fun” with his attitude. He pointed to Fitzpatrick’s calmness and the way that allows teammates to relax. 

It allowed him to play freely, he said. 

“He’s got a love for the game that not many people have,” Humphries said. “He just makes playing football fun. He brings a good attitude toward every situation. He’s still slinging it. I’m excited to link back up with him and have some fun.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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