HOUSTON (AP) — Ryan Fitzpatrick is getting a second chance to be Houston’s quarterback on Sunday at Tennessee with Ryan Mallett out for the season with a chest injury.
"There’s a lot of times you don’t have that opportunity," Fitzpatrick said. "Something was taken away from me and I didn’t know if I’d get a chance to go out there and play again. So (there’s a) renewed sense of excitement and energy."
Coach Bill O’Brien said Mallett has a chest injury and that they weren’t sure if he would need surgery when the Texans placed him on season-ending injured reserve on Wednesday.
Fitzpatrick started the first nine games before being benched during the bye week in favor of Mallett. Mallett went 1-1 as the starter.
O’Brien said he wasn’t sure exactly when Mallett was injured, but it was clear there was something wrong with the quarterback in a loss to the Bengals on Sunday when he routinely overthrew receivers.
"It’s hard to pinpoint with that type of injury exactly when it happened," O’Brien said. "I believe that he tried to fight through it. I think he wanted to stay in there and I don’t think he said much to anybody about it."
Houston’s passing game has been a problem this season, and the Texans rank 28th in the NFL with 207.5 yards a game.
The Texans don’t feel as if going back to Fitzpatrick will be that big of a deal since they worked with him for much of the season.
"We’ve got all the confidence in the world in Fitzpatrick," receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. "He’s a leader. He’s a guy that’s been in this league for a while. So why wouldn’t we have confidence in him?"
Fitzpatrick is a 10-year NFL veteran, who has thrown for 1,960 yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season. The Texans lost four of the last five games he started, with the only win in that span coming against the Titans. Fitzpatrick started the last nine games for Tennessee last season after Jake Locker was injured.
He didn’t change anything about his preparation when he wasn’t starting.
"I’ve continued to prepare in the last few weeks, just still getting my throws and getting the rhythm," he said. "All the experiences and things that have happened through my first 8-9 games, and the timing with Andre (Johnson) and DeAndre and the tight ends … that stuff still carries over."
Fitzpatrick thinks his time on the bench may have been valuable in seeing things from a different perspective.
"There might have been some good the last few weeks of sitting back and being able to watch it," he said. "But I certainly wanted to be out there."
O’Brien agreed and thinks seeing Mallett play could be good for Fitzpatrick when he gets back on the field on Sunday. Mallett knew O’Brien’s system before being traded here in August after working with the coach when he was an assistant in New England.
"(Watching) a guy that’s played in the system and a guy that knows the system in Mallett and sees how it operates with Mallett, that probably did help Fitz," O’Brien said. "You could see signs of that (Wednesday) in practice."
Also on Wednesday, the Texans signed free agent quarterback Thad Lewis, who was released by the Bills in training camp. Tom Savage, a fourth-round pick, is Houston’s other quarterback. O’Brien said they’ll decide later this week who will back up Fitzpatrick on Sunday.
"We’re very pleased with Tom’s progress to this point," O’Brien said. "I think it’s very difficult to play quarterback in this league as a rookie … with us where we are right now at 5-6 and still having a shot, we go with Fitz and let Thad and Tom battled it out to see who’s No. 2."