As Josh Rosen dropped back to pass during practice Tuesday, Ryan Fitzpatrick slapped and pushed him in the back, like an older brother trying to annoy.
It was part of a drill, and those are the only swipes the two Miami Dolphins newcomers are taking at each other as they begin competition for the No. 1 quarterback job.
Fitzpatrick, entering his 15th NFL season, has been through it all before. This year he can become the first player to throw a pass for eight teams.
“I’ve always had to earn every opportunity that I’ve received,” said Fitzpatrick, 36. “I love the competition. I love being out here and trying to be the best me I can be.”
When Fitzpatrick signed an $11 million, two-year deal in March, the job appeared to be his to replace the departed Ryan Tannehill. Then the Dolphins traded two draft picks for Rosen, who had a rocky rookie season in Arizona last year but could become the franchise quarterback Miami has sought since Dan Marino retired 20 years ago.
Fitzpatrick, speaking publicly about the Rosen trade for the first time, said he took the deal in stride.
“I’m here because this was an opportunity where I would have a chance to play,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was a job that was open.”
It still is, according to first-year coach Brian Flores. He said the best QB in practice will start.
“I expect Ryan to compete for the starting position,” Flores said. “I expect him to lead in the quarterback room, and really the entire offense. Obviously he has a wealth of knowledge and a lot of experience. There’s competition, but at the same time we’re trying to build a team and try to help each other become the best version of ourselves on the field. I expect him to be the leader he is. He has done a good job of that so far.”
Rosen, like Fitzpatrick, has embraced the battle for the No. 1 job, and said he’ll be mindful of the example set by his more experienced teammate.
“He likes to goof around, but he works really hard,” Rosen said. “He has been in this league a long time. If I can take just a couple of lessons from him, they’ll do me very well in the long run.”
The QBs’ lockers are side by side, allowing plenty of opportunity for conversation — such as when the cerebral Rosen explained to Fitzpatrick the ecological benefit of the recycled plastic in his cleats.
“Some of the stuff he talks about reminds me of some classmates I had in college,” said Fitzpatrick, a Harvard alum. “The topics are sometimes not necessarily things I want to talk about. But he’s definitely an interesting guy.”
This week’s practices are the first for Rosen with Miami. He fumbled three snaps to start Tuesday’s workout, and threw an interception at the beginning of seven-on-seven drills, while Fitzpatrick lined up with the first unit.
Rosen acknowledged there’s a considerable learning curve in a new city with a new team.
“My head is swimming,” he said. “You kind of underestimate from the outside looking in all the logistical issues — just having to move, and I’m walking into the receiver room thinking it’s the bathroom. There are a lot of little things that go into it. When you step on the field, you’ve got to let that go.”
Fitzpatrick has been with the team only a few weeks longer but already seems at home. He led teammates jogging through an agility drill, holding the ball in one hand as defenders tried to poke it out, while repeatedly touching the turf with his other hand.
Fitzpatrick reached the finish and struck a Superman pose. Rosen’s challenge will be to top that.
NOTES: Two-time Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones is skipping this week’s practices, which are voluntary. Jones also missed three voluntary workouts in April. Flores didn’t give a reason but said he has talked with Jones, and the continued absences aren’t an issue. Flores said he expects Jones to attend mandatory minicamp in June. … Cornerback Xavien Howard said he doesn’t plan a spending spree after signing a $76.5 million, five-year extension , the most lucrative deal ever for an NFL cornerback. “I’m going to save it,” he said.