Veteran WR Evans backs Bills' decision to start QB Fitzpatrick

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- No fan of in-season quarterback shuffles, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Lee Evans wasn't in a position to dispute the team's latest decision to go with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter.

Evans backed the switch Wednesday by saying something had to give on an Bills offense that has shown little spark under Trent Edwards in opening the season with two losses. The seventh-year receiver then added that he believes Fitzpatrick has a better feel for the game.

"It's a little bit surprising, but I think the overall feeling was we weren't playing up to the potential of being as good as we can be," Evans said.

When asked to compare the two quarterbacks, Evans credited Fitzpatrick in noting he's unafraid of throwing passes into coverage and capable of manufacturing plays on the fly.

"He just feels the game and reacts off instinct. Fitz just has that different demeanor about him than Trent does," Evans said. "And with that, you have a chance."

Evans' comments came as Bills players returned to practice for the first time since coach Chan Gailey announced the quarterback change Monday. The move came one day after a 34-7 loss at Green Bay in which Buffalo's offense managed just 186 yards -- 20 more than it had in a 15-10 loss to Miami one week earlier -- and Edwards threw two interceptions and was sacked four times.

Though Gailey said not all the blame should be placed on Edwards, he made the switch in a bid to kick-start an offense as Buffalo prepares to play at AFC East rival New England this weekend.

Evans didn't blame Edwards, but the receiver also didn't go out of his way to say anything to support the fourth-year Bills quarterback. And this came after a game in which Evans was thrown to only once -- leading to a pass-interference penalty -- and held without a catch for just the third time in his career.

Evans said there was nothing unusual or complex about how the Packers defended him.

This marks the fourth time in Evans' seven years in Buffalo that the team has changed starters because of performance and the second consecutive season in which Edwards has lost his job to Fitzpatrick.


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As difficult as it is to adjust to a new quarterback on the fly, Evans noted the offense is familiar with Fitzpatrick, who went 5-4 in nine games in which he had a majority of playing time last season. And then there's the timing of the move.

"I guess it's better early than late," Evans said. "We still have a chance to do a lot of good things."

There's a lot to improve for an attack that has managed just 352 yards and scored 17 points in two games. Edwards went a combined 29-of-52 passing for 241 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions, and he was sacked seven times in showing no signs of the confidence and zip he had displayed in winning the starting job during the preseason.

Fitzpatrick, a sixth-year pro, might not be as strong-armed as Edwards, but he proved to be more resourceful in having a hand in five of Buffalo's six wins last season.

Fitzpatrick's numbers weren't much better than Edwards' last season. He had a lower completion percentage (55.9 to Edwards' 60.1), lower passer rating (69.7 to 73.8) and threw 10 interceptions, three more than Edwards.

What separated Fitzpatrick was his ability to get the ball to his main receivers -- Evans and Terrell Owens -- and make deep throws. The Bills completed three passes of 50 yards or longer last season, all of them by Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick said he won't force throws to Evans if he's covered but noted the importance of involving the team's top receiver.

"Lee's a big part of our team," Fitzpatrick said. "He's a guy we want to get the ball, too. But it has to be the right situation."

Fitzpatrick shrugged off the pressure when reminded he'll start against the Patriots, a team that has defeated the Bills in 18 of the past 19 meetings, including 13 in a row.

"Just another football game," Fitzpatrick said. "If we have to run the ball on every snap, if we have to throw it deep, whatever it takes."

Edwards was surprised by his sudden demotion, but he accepted it.

"That's the decision that's made, and I've got to respect that," Edwards said. "I'm not going to hang my head. I'm obviously frustrated and disappointed, but it's a long season. Things can change. And I'll still be ready to go."

Notes: LG Andy Levitre was held out of practice for precautionary reasons after he hurt his neck against Green Bay. Gailey said Levitre is expected to practice Thursday. ... LB Paul Posluszny (knee) already has been ruled out of this weekend's game. ... Of the four times that Bills quarterbacks threw for more than 200 yards last season, Fitzpatrick did it three times, including a season-high 297 in an 18-15 loss at Jacksonville.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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