The Associated Press
HOUSTON — The Houston Texans’ biggest problem in their 2-14 season was inconsistent play at quarterback.
Enter, Ryan Fitzpatrick. The veteran faces the big task of turning around an offense that did little right last year.
He isn’t at all daunted by the challenge and won’t let last year’s woes bleed into 2014.
“This is completely new,” he said. “We’re not even thinking or talking about last year ... I think everyone has seen that it is really a year-to-year league. Just in terms of whatever happened the year before, it doesn’t matter. If you think about it too much then maybe it affects you in a negative way.”
Fitzpatrick was signed in the offseason after Houston traded Matt Schaub, whose terrible play in 2013 helped doom the Texans to the NFL’s worst record. Fitzpatrick was slated to be Tennessee’s backup last season but was thrust into the starting role after Jake Locker was hurt midway through the season.
A former starter for the Buffalo Bills, the nine-year veteran started nine games after Locker’s injury. Fitzpatrick threw for 2,454 yards and 14 touchdowns. His best season came in 2011, when he started each game for the Bills and threw for 3,832 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Some thought the Texans should take a quarterback with the No. 1 pick in the draft, but they instead chose to upgrade their defense with Jadeveon Clowney. Fitzpatrick’s good work in the offseason prompted new coach Bill O’Brien to name him the starter in minicamp and the quarterback said it feels different to be in training camp knowing he’ll be in charge of the offense.
“I’ve got to take the next step now from kind of learning an offense through the offseason, now in training camp we’re getting ready for the season,” he said. “I’ve got to really take on that role of ownership. I think so far we’ve got a good start, but we’ve got a lot of work to go.”
One player who has already been impressed by the 31-year-old Fitzpatrick is receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson raved about his new signal caller following their third practice together after Johnson skipped offseason workouts and mandatory minicamp.
“Me and him have been doing a lot of communicating since I’ve been here,” Johnson said after Houston’s first practice in full pads on Monday. “In this offense, the quarterback and receiver definitely have to be on the same page, so me and him are talking all of the time, just things about the offense.”
Johnson has some catching up to do in learning O’Brien’s system after missing so much time and has already been helped by Fitzpatrick’s hands-on approach.
“We’re all still learning because it’s a new system for everybody,” Johnson said. “He’s into it; if you’ve got a question, there is no hesitation. If there is something he is thinking about, he is going to pull you to the side and tell you about it ... he’s always on top of everything.”
Fitzpatrick had been eager to start working with Johnson and his first three days with him as a teammate didn’t disappoint.
“He’s a great guy to come to work with every day,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m really looking forward to playing with him this year just because of the way that he works and the way that he has put in the time the first few days to learn and understand everything.”
Johnson left practice early with a tight right hamstring but said it isn’t anything serious and he’ll be OK.
Running back Arian Foster missed practice Monday with an undisclosed injury.
“He’s dealing with something,” O’Brien said. “He’ll be fine. He’ll be back. It’s a minor deal. It’s a long season. He’ll be out there.”