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Fitz gains sense of security

Ryan Fitzpatrick has fond and conflicting memories of Friday, March 11. Late that night, his wife, Liza, gave birth to their third child, Lucy Violet. Less than an hour later, Fitzpatrick discovered that he and his fellow NFL players had been locked out.

"It's funny," Fitzpatrick said Friday evening from his offseason home in Arizona. "She was born 45 minutes after the lockout started. She came 45 minutes after we lost our insurance."

Luckily, the Bills' starting quarterback has great financial security. And Fitzpatrick's job security became even stronger over the past two days when the Bills elected not to take a quarterback with their first three selections of the NFL draft.

Leading up to the draft, Bills general manager Buddy Nix had made it clear that he wanted to find a franchise quarterback relatively soon. But when Cam Newton went No. 1 overall, he went with the best defensive player on the board, Marcell Dareus, with his first pick, the third overall.

Then, rather than take a lesser quarterback prospect, Nix went defense again with Buffalo's second choice, grabbing Texas defensive back Aaron williams with the 34th overall pick on Day Two.

Even if the Bills had taken a franchise QB in the draft, it was a near-certainty that Fitzpatrick would go into the 2011 season as the starter after throwing for 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns last year. Still, those first three picks were a resounding endorsement of Fitz as the No. 1 guy.

"Yeah, I think this expresses their confidence in me," Fitzpatrick said, the NFL draft telecast audible in the background. "With the draft, you never know in terms of the value they put on some guys. I didn't know what was going to happen today

"Hold on," Fitz said, "Andy Dalton just got drafted by the Bengals."

Dalton, a quarterback from TCU, went one pick after the Bills took Williams. One pick later, while Fitz was still on the phone, the 49ers traded up to No. 36 to take another quarterback who had supposedly been on the Bills' second-day radar, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.

That made six quarterbacks among the first 36 picks in the draft. That's the first time since the famous 1983 draft that six went that early. There were six in the first 27 picks that year -- including John Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino.

As anticipated, many teams were eager, if not desperate, to improve themselves at the game's most important position. The Bills were in the market. Desperate, they were not.

"Fitz's ability and leadership and the way he played last year gave us the freedom to be able to do what we needed to do with our football team," said coach Chan Gailey.

"Chan did call me soon before the lockout happened," Fitzpatrick said. "He told me, 'You're our guy next year for sure, regardless of what we do in the draft. If we draft a quarterback, it'll be because we see him as a 10- to 12-year guy.' It was cool of him to do that, to think of me before the lockout even arose."

Clearly, Fitz paid close attention to the Bills' draft. He said he was excited to see the Bills make additions to their shaky defense.

"It sends the message that we're in it to turn this thing around right away," Fitzpatrick said. "We want to get better now."

Fitzpatrick said he doesn't feel any pressure to prove last year's performance wasn't a fluke.

"I'm more excited to build on some of the success we had last year," he said. "Usually, the longer you play in a system, the more confident you become and the easier it gets. I've never had an offseason where I'm the guy."

Fitzpatrick said he's confident there will be NFL football, and it'll start on time. Too much money at stake. He's working out in Gilbert, Ariz., and enjoying time at home with his his family. He and Liza, who was captain of the women's soccer team at Harvard when Ryan was the quarterback, have two boys, Brady and Tate.

"[Liza] is great, doing really well," he said. "Lucy put in 10 hours of sleep two nights ago. We're happy about that."

No need for Fitz to lose any sleep. The No. 1 quarterback job is safe, now and for the immediate future.


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