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Bills interim coach Fewell reinstates Fitzpatrick as QB, fires up team

  • By Associated Press
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills have a new starting quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick. They practiced in pads on a Wednesday for the first time that anyone can remember.

As for addressing all those false-start penalties the Bills have committed this season? Well, Perry Fewell joked that he threatened to start cutting off players' fingers if they jump the snap count in practice.

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However interim his title might be, Fewell made some lasting impressions on his first full day as the Bills' coach after the team abruptly fired Dick Jauron on Tuesday.

"We had fun," Fewell said, who has little time to prepare for his debut Sunday, when the Bills (3-6) travel to play the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4).

"I'm probably a little bit more fired up, a lot more emotional I would say," Fewell said, comparing his style to that of the ever low-key Jauron. "Whether (the players) take on those characteristics or not, I don't know. I just know that I'm going to get the team to try to focus on one game, Jacksonville."

Fitzpatrick was among several players who noticed an immediate difference.

"He's got some fire in him, and I like what he did in the first meeting," Fitzpatrick said. "He's here to kind of break us out of our little funk, and I think he's a good guy to do it."

After spending the past three seasons as the Bills' defensive coordinator, Fewell's first big decision, not surprisingly, came on offense in an attempt to spark a unit that has sputtered this season.

Electing to go with Fitzpatrick over Trent Edwards, Fewell said he and the staff believe Fitzpatrick gives the Bills "the best opportunity."

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The switch in quarterbacks comes after Edwards was yanked after having an interception returned for a touchdown with three minutes left in a 41-17 loss at Tennessee last weekend. It was Edwards' first game back after he sustained a concussion during a 16-13 overtime victory over the New York Jets on Oct. 18.

Fitzpatrick rallied the Bills past the Jets in that game, then went 1-1 in two starts.

Buffalo's offense has struggled no matter who has called the plays. It ranks 29th in the NFL in yards gained, is averaging a little over 15 points and hasn't generated 300 yards in any of its past seven outings.

Though Fewell said the job is Fitzpatrick's on a week-to-week basis, the quarterback said he has been told something different.

"I think right now it's my job," Fitzpatrick said. "I think right now he's handing me the job, and I'm going to go ahead and try to take it."

Wide receiver Terrell Owens backed the quarterback switch, noting that Fitzpatrick, in his fifth season, is more experienced than Edwards, who's in his third year. And Owens noted that he believed Fitzpatrick had earned the right to take over after winning two of three games.




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As for the coaching change, Owens shrugged.

"What's new?" he said, referring to a Bills team that switched offensive coordinators in September, when Turk Schonert was fired. Owens added that he contacted Jauron to thank him and wish him well.

Jauron was fired after going 24-33 in three-plus seasons in Buffalo and with the team in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a 10th consecutive year.

Fewell showed he's not afraid of trying something new. He had his players practice in pads, and he intends to do so again Thursday. Under Jauron, the Bills normally only practiced in pads on Thursdays during a game week.

"I just felt like Jacksonville is a very physical football team, and I felt like going into this week that we needed to have a mind-set of being physical," Fewell said.

Fewell also is concentrating on correcting the numerous mental errors that have cost the Bills on offense. Buffalo has been penalized 22 times for false-start penalties, including nine in a 6-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 11, and five more against the Titans.

Fewell said he was ready to cut off a player's finger during practice, but he joked that Bills head trainer Bud Carpenter advised him against it.

"So I kind of got up in their face a little bit and just made my presence felt," Fewell said.

Safety George Wilson is no stranger to Fewell's fiery approach and credited the coach for rallying the players during a team meeting prior to practice.

"He's in control, he made that impression," Wilson said. "He conveyed his message in a way that guys wouldn't automatically just turn off the switch. He did a great job of setting the tone."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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