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Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Evans laments '10 decision to back Edwards

By Tim Graham

ELMA, N.Y. -- Lee Evans doesn't mince words when he reflects on the Buffalo Bills' decision last summer to go with Trent Edwards at quarterback instead of Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Evans
Evans
New head coach Chan Gailey gave all the first-team reps and preseason starts to Edwards.

"That was a huge missed opportunity, a huge missed opportunity," Evans said Monday at Sahlen's Sports Park, where he, Fitzpatrick and about 30 other Bills have gathered this week for informal workouts.

Fitzpatrick mostly watched Edwards work out with the first-team offense and took occasional reps for months. Yet after two losses to start the 2010 regular season, Edwards went from clear-cut starter to not good enough for the roster. The Bills waived him and switched to Fitzpatrick.

In 13 games, Fitzpatrick completed 57.8 percent of his throws for 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. He played with a panache that made those ordinary numbers seem even better to Bills fans.

"It's hard, especially at the quarterback position, to come in and take control as he did," Evans said. "You have to take your hat off to him. It's a remarkable feat to come in and do what he did last year.

"Had we been doing it from the beginning, he would have been that much better even earlier. Given all that, I think he did well, and this year, with him knowing that he's the No. 1 quarterback, that gives everybody a vote of confidence moving forward."

The change sparked the offense, but it remained erratic. In essence, Fitzpatrick was working through his version of training camp on Sunday afternoons.

It was Week 7 against the Baltimore Ravens when Evans said he noticed the Bills' offense climb out of the hole created by the Edwards decision.

The Ravens beat the Bills 37-34 in overtime, but Fitzpatrick completed 67.4 percent of his attempts for 382 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions.

Baltimore was the first of three straight three-point losses that pushed Buffalo's record to 0-8. The Bills then went 4-3 the rest of the way with Fitzpatrick as the starter. He missed the season finale with an injury.

"He has the respect and the confidence of everybody on the team," Evans said. "He's the type of quarterback that can communicate with you on and off the field. He leads by example, and not just what he says. He's smart enough to be able to handle situations. Guys trust in him and believe in him."