For all of last season and the entire offseason Trent Edwards has had Alex Van Pelt's voice in his helmet relaying the play call for each and every snap on the field. That changed this past Sunday when Van Pelt assumed offensive coordinator duties.
With Van Pelt taking a seat upstairs in the coaches' booth on game days the person now entrusted with relaying the plays from Van Pelt to Edwards via the radio transmitter in his helmet with be backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"It'll be a similar voice that we hear in our room all week and we talk the same language and Ryan will pass it on to Trent," said Van Pelt. "That will allow me to go upstairs and remove myself from the sideline and focus on the field."
Tabbing Fitzpatrick as the new link in the play call chain makes a lot of sense for the reasons mentioned above, but also because he's done it before.
"When I was in St. Louis that's how we ran it my first year there with the backup quarterback calling it into the quarterback on the field," said Fitzpatrick. "So I've had some experience with it. The good thing about this offense is there's not a whole lot of verbiage so there is not going to be a bunch of long tongue-twisting plays."
Fitzpatrick is very familiar with some of the problems that can arise on game day, like sporadic failure of the radio transmitter or ambient crowd noise which will require him to over pronounce the words of the play call.
"You have to annunciate," he said. "Annunciation is key and my mom is a grade school teacher so fortunately she taught me how to speak clearly. It's tough at times just because of how loud the crowd is. Everybody has issues in terms of hearing the play, but we have signals and stuff too if necessary."
Edwards and Fitzpatrick have already gone over the signal Edwards will give him if he's having trouble getting the play via the radio.
"It happens all the time," said Fitzpatrick. "It happened in the preseason a couple of times. Sometimes that radio signal just drops and there are times where you have to work around it. It happens enough in the preseason and at camp that we have it all figured out in terms of needing to look to the sideline and letting me know I need to give him hand signals."
Through two practices with Fitzpatrick relaying the plays to Edwards, Buffalo's starting quarterback feels good about the new voice in his helmet.
"Very comfortable," said Edwards. "It's a little bit different hearing his voice obviously, but I'm comfortable. I'm with him probably more than anyone else in this organization and he's my right hand man. I feel he sees the game the same way I do so it's nice to have a guy in your helmet saying those things to you."
"I know what to say to him and the things he needs to be reminded of and he'll have a good open line of communication with me," said Fitzpatrick.
In preparation for the opener the quarterbacks plan to review things together with respect to the play calls.
"We'll go over each and every play that we have in the game plan and if there is stuff that he wants to be reminded of or alerted to in addition to the play then that's stuff I'll throw in too," Fitzpatrick said. "But I'll keep it to a minimum. If he wants something else I'll add it."
Most of the time Fitzpatrick will just be giving Edwards the play. In between offensive possessions will be the time Fitzpatrick gives more detailed input.
"The conversations that Gibran and I have on the sideline with Trent will obviously be in between series," said Fitzpatrick. "Alex is not going to be down there so there's a lot of information that will have to be communicated from me to Trent on the sideline in terms of what we're going to do on the next series. So that's going to be different, but at the same time we have enough coaches down there to tell Trent whatever else he needs to know. And it's nice for me to kind of relay stuff to him."
Edwards also has the ability to talk to Van Pelt on the sideline phone that provides a direct connection to the coach's booth. But Fitzpatrick and Edwards have already developed a healthy give and take through the course of the preseason when the Bills defense is on the field.
"We'll talk about some specific plays or even some specific looks we're getting and how we want to attack it," said Fitzpatrick. "Even when Alex was down there that stuff was happening where we were talking quarterback to quarterback. He's asking my opinion or Gibran's opinion of what we're seeing out there and different ways to attack it. That's the part that I really enjoy, being able to help him out and kind of dissect what they're doing and put us in a better position to get down the field."
For a backup quarterback having an extra game day duty is a welcome assignment. It makes Fitzpatrick feel more a part of the offensive effort on the field, and more involved in making Edwards' day a success.
"Yeah I love it," Fitzpatrick said. "Any added responsibility for me is awesome. I'm definitely looking forward to it."