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Facing Fitzpatrick stirs emotions in Bills


When the Bills enter NRG Stadium in Houston this coming Sunday, they'll be entering Ryan Fitzpatrick's house as guests for the first time.

The former Bills quarterback is in his first season with the Texans after a short stint with the Titans and a more memorable career as a friend and a teammate to many veteran Bills, having shared Ralph Wilson Stadium as their home for four seasons.

Though the before and after of this Sunday's game will have a nostalgic feel for many on the field, at kickoff, Fitzpatrick will be just another opposing quarterback the Bills are hungry to beat.

"You always want to see former teammates and guys that you're close to do well, but when you play against them they're on the other team so you want to kick their butts just like anybody else," said Fred Jackson, who says he's been texting Fitzpatrick about this game for months. "It will be for bragging rights."

"When it comes down to Sundays, whether it's my brother or my worst enemy, we all play the same," said Lee Smith. "It actually makes it more fun because when you do make those plays against your buddies you can kind of talk a little more trash and shoot him a text after the game to let him know you got him."

Jackson and Smith – like many of their current teammates – have kept in touch with Fitzpatrick since his departure from the Bills, often about off-the-field topics just as much as football and both say they hope to catch up with him and his family before or after the game.

"He's the kind of guy that you'll remember forever, for the rest of your life," said Smith, who lives in Fitzpatrick's former home in Buffalo. "Randomly every couple months you have to text him, or you'll get a text from him and it puts a smile on your face because he's just that guy. He's a guy that's fun to be around, always positive, and just a great man."

Respect for Fitzpatrick is seemingly universal in the Bills locker room.  'Funny,' 'great,' and 'well-liked' were a few of the complimentary words repeated by the players in describing their former signal caller. But 'smart' was the overwhelmingly popular description for the Harvard grad, who holds the record for the highest score of any NFL quarterback on the Wonderlic Test given to gauge the intelligence of NFL prospects.

"He's a great quarterback. He's by far the smartest player I've ever played with," said Jackson. "I'm not surprised he's having a good season because I don't see him having any problems picking up any offenses that he's in and knowing what defenses to attack and what plays to call and where to go just from all the knowledge he has of the game and being as smart as he is."

Though at 2-1 the Texans have had a largely successful start to their season, some members of the Bills defense feel they have a bit of a competitive edge having played and practiced against Fitzpatrick for so many seasons.

"He's a smart guy, but I feel like we do (have an edge)," said Marcell Dareus. "We have to watch the film a little bit. See where he's going with that offense. But I think we got him."

"When you go against a guy every day for two years, you kind of know what his style is," said Aaron Williams. "Just to go against your former teammate is always fun because we competed against each other and made each other better here every day so to go out there, it's like a rivalry now."

A Bills-Texans matchup might not be a traditional rivalry, but it's a game the Bills would like to put in the win column, knowing the head-to-head victory over the Texans could make a difference down the road in a playoff hunt. So nostalgia or not, the Bills will enter Fitzpatrick's new home with respect, but looking for only one thing: a win.

"Obviously we all wish him the best and as a player and a friend," said Smith. "But it'll be fun to see him out there competing but we're all going to get out there and try to go after his butt and we'll let him know that."

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