Ryan Fitzpatrick has been around the league more often than most in the NFL, but no matter where he goes, it's been relatively easy for him to win over a locker room.
It's only been about two months since Fitzpatrick joined the Washington Football Team, and his teammates are already gravitating towards him, according to head coach Ron Rivera. He has a simple goal for himself as the team rolls through OTAs: build up the trust and communication between himself and his teammates.
Fitzpatrick strives to do that with every team, and it tends to work out for the 16-year veteran. But why is that so important to him? It's all about getting the best possible results on the field.
"When that communication gets crisp and gets quicker," Fitzpatrick said after practice, "you play faster and that puts a lot of pressure on the defense."
Getting to know his teammates better is Fitzpatrick's favorite part of joining a new team. He normally would be able to sit with them in the cafeteria and talk about their lives off the field, but with the NFL still working under COVID-19 protocols, that option has been taken away. So, that means the interactions he has in the huddle, during stretches and walking off the field with his teammates gets magnified.
"A lot of it is just getting to know guys and making sure that they know I'm here and I'm trying to earn their respect and I'm working hard every single day," Fitzpatrick said in March. "That formula for me has worked pretty much everywhere I've been."
That bond carries over onto the field, where Fitzpatrick looks to be on the same page with the offense. That is especially true for the receivers, who have to get acclimated to the velocity and trajectory of his passes. Every receiver is a little different in terms of how they run routes and expect the ball, he said, but for him, part of figuring that out is he first tries to put the ball in the spot where he thinks it needs to be. That will create some early incompletions, but it allows him and the receiver to discuss what went wrong.
Those moments where he can help his teammates are what Fitzpatrick enjoys the most. Part of it comes from the advice he received when he was a seventh-round pick with the Rams, and continuing the trend of offering a helping hand is his way of paying it forward.
"Going out there and just gaining confidence as I went," Fitzpatrick said, "it's just fun to accelerate that with some of these guys and to make sure that they know they're here for a reason."
And that communication in practice translates to production on gamedays. It helps the offensive linemen get comfortable with Fitzpatrick directing the offense. It helps him anticipate what the call is going to be in certain situations. But most importantly, it helps the entire unit operate at a much quicker pace.
"There's just certain parts of playing the game that become second nature, and you start to anticipate because of the rapport and relationship you've been able to build," Fitzpatrick said.
The majority of Washington's offense was already in place when Fitzpatrick signed with the team, meaning he's trying to play "catch up" in some respects. But this is hardly his first time getting to know a new team, and his method has a proven track record. If it works out again, it should help the offense meet its higher expectations in 2021.
"I thought it was a great start for the guys," Fitzpatrick said. "I am really excited to be here, and that excitement has just grown since I've gotten around everybody."