Coincidentally, the team’s — and Fitzpatrick’s — slide started thereafter. At 5-2 after shutting out the Redskins, the Bills lost seven straight. The quarterback’s passer rating plunged from 116.4 against the Redskins to 51.9, 46.6, and 45.8 in the next three games.
But Fitzpatrick showed up only once all season on the injury report. He was listed as probable with a chest injury for the Week Nine game against the Jets, the first game after the game against the Redskins.
It sounds like it was more than a little worse than that.
“I mean, it’s something I don’t really want to get into much,” Fitzpatrick told the Toronto Sun. “The only thing I’ll say is guys in the NFL play hurt. Every game guys are hurt, especially at the end of the year. And that’s just part of the game, it’s part of the business, and something you have to do.”
Receiver Stevie Johnson was slightly more talkative on the topic.
“I know personally, in the huddle, the worst it got — to my knowledge — is he barely could say a full play under one breath,” Johnson told the Sun.
“It started right at the halfway mark [of the season]. I mean, everybody in the league is injured or is hurt in some way. When it’s your quarterback who’s got to throw, and it’s ribs — I mean, it’s tough. That’s the last thing I heard was it was ribs, or what-not.”
“Ribs” never showed up on the injury report. And if the “ribs” were cracked, it surely wasn’t a one-week situation.
That said, the fact that teams like the Saints (or perhaps a decade ago the Bills) were using cash as the carrot to knock guys out of games, I’ve now got a different attitude about hiding injuries. Yes, it gives rise to inside information that could be exploited by guys with two ears and one eyebrow. But if players are going to be corrupted from within the locker room, it’s no longer quite as important to worry about potential outside influences.