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Buffalo Bills hold their breath on Ryan Fitzpatrick

Let's be frank here: The Buffalo Bills really need Ryan Fitzpatrick to step it up in 2012.

If he doesn't, it would show a serious breakdown in evaluation from the top of the organization on down. It might sound melodramatic, but eyebrows were raised in October when Fitzpatrick was given a seven-year, $62 million contract, a deal that included a $10 million signing bonus and whopping $24 million guaranteed.

That's Aaron Rodgers-type money, and that's why it had to give management a queasy feeling when Fitzpatrick threw 17 interceptions in the final 10 games of the season, posting a 70.1 passer rating and 2-8 record.

The Fitzpatrick before the contract was a different player (6 games, 12 TDs, 6 picks, 95.3 rating), and it begs the question: Will they get the Amish Rifle or Harvard Heartbreak?

For what it's worth, Bills coaches are excited what they see from Fitzpatrick at Bills OTAs.

"I didn't anticipate him hitting the back shoulder (throw) until the middle of camp and he just nailed that one," quarterbacks coach David Lee said Friday, according to the official team site. "He hit the go route, which bothered him last year especially to his left."

"I'm really pleased with how quickly he's taken to it, but it's not muscle memory yet because we haven't done it long enough. He's improving, but he's not yet where he's going to be."

Lee believes Fitzpatrick has the intangibles to be a leader the team rallies around.

"You've got to be a pressure player," he said. "What he did out there against Oakland last year (a three-TD effort in a 38-35 comeback win in Week 2) we need him do it four or five times this year because that's what's required at our position right now."

That seems to be asking a lot of Fitzpatrick, a seventh-round pick who's only shown flashes of greatness. But when you're paid like a star quarterback, that's what you're expected to be.

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