Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer 13d

Jets' disaster last year still haunts Ryan Fitzpatrick

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Ryan Fitzpatrick was so down after last season's New York Jets disaster that it nearly drove him out of football.

On Wednesday, Fitzpatrick, 34, admitted he considered retirement after the 5-11 debacle in which he threw 17 interceptions. He called it "the toughest year of my career." And he has had some tough ones.

"It was hard to get over, and really that’s something that maybe you never get over in terms of what could have been and where we thought we were at that point as a football team," he said on a conference call with New York media.

Fitzpatrick was reflecting on his two-year run with the Jets because, maybe you heard, he's starting against them on Sunday. With Jameis Winston sidelined with a shoulder injury, Fitzpatrick will make his starting debut for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He admitted "it probably means a little bit extra to me, just being there for two years and just being competitive with a lot of those guys, having a lot of good friends that are still on the team." So, yes, there's an element of redemption for Fitzpatrick, but he said his main goal is to get a win for the Bucs (2-6), who have dropped five straight.

The Bucs are a lot like last year's Jets -- teams that collapsed under the weight of high expectations. To his credit, Fitzpatrick took ownership of his role in the Jets' mess.

"I've dealt with a lot of adversity in my career, but more so than anything, I think it was the disappointment, just the disappointment in me not being able to perform and lead the team to more wins," he said.

Fitzpatrick practiced against Todd Bowles' defense for two years, so he's familiar with the scheme and much of the personnel. He said that "helps a little bit, but kind of negates itself with them and their familiarity with me."

For their part, the Jets have downplayed the Fitzpatrick angle. Defensive players are parroting the same line, that it's the Jets versus the Bucs, not the Jets versus Fitzpatrick. Clearly, the coaches don't want them to make it personal.

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