Rookie quarterback is catching on quickly
BY STEVE KORTE
ST. LOUIS - There's no question that St. Louis Rams rookie quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is smart enough to play in the NFL.
Fitzpatrick, who will graduate on June 9 from Harvard University with a degree in economics, has the brain power to master the Rams' complex offense.
"I'm very impressed with him," Rams coach Mike Martz said of Fitzpatrick during the team's rookie minicamp this weekend. "I don't know if I have ever been around a quarterback who can absorb what we have done with him out there as quickly as he has."
Martz said Fitzpatrick's intelligence goes beyond having an high IQ.
"It's a special intelligence when you tell somebody, 'Here's what I want you to do,' they can take what you are saying to them and do it immediately without a lot of repetition," Martz said. "It takes a really unusual athlete to do that. That's a Marshall Faulk for instance, that's an Isaac Bruce."
Fitzpatrick ranked in the top one percent of his class at Highland High School in Gilbert, Ariz.
He scored a 38 out of a possible 50 on his Wonderlic test at the NFL Combine. However, he finished the 12-minute test in just nine minutes.
"I probably made some silly rush mistakes," Fitzpatrick said. "I was trying to get done as soon as possible."
Fitzpatrick said the questions on the Wonderlic were normal test questions. However, some of the questions on the psychological tests given at the NFL Combine were a little strange.
"The worst one that I read was something along the lines of, 'Have you ever thought about abusing your dog?"' Fitzpatrick said. "It's an obvious, 'No.' Unless maybe you are an offensive linemen and they are trying to find out if you have a mean streak."
Even the scholarly Fitzpatrick was surprised by the size of the Rams' playbook.
"It's a big book," Fitzpatrick said. "I almost dropped it yesterday when they gave it to me."
As the lone quarterback at the rookie minicamp, Fitzpatrick's throwing arm is getting a workout.
"If his elbow is at his knee when he leaves here, that's about right," Martz said.
Fitzpatrick said his arm was a little sore Saturday.
"I knew I was going to throw a lot, especially coming into this organization, but I didn't expect to throw this much," Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick has been working side-by-side with Martz during most of the minicamp
It's something Fitzpatrick doesn't mind knowing how Martz worked wonders with other unheralded young quarterbacks like Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger.
"I'm real excited knowing the success they've had developing that late-round or even free-agent quarterback and the success of their offense the last few years," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm writing everything he says down because anything that comes out of his mouth is going help me in the future."
The Rams took Fitzpatrick in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL draft last weekend. He was the 250th of the 255 players selected in the draft.
By that point, Fitzpatrick figured he'd be signing somewhere as an undrafted free agent.
"Near the end of the seventh round, I thought that was the road I was going to take," Fitzpatrick said. "I was actually on the line with Miami talking about free agency when I got a call from the Rams saying, 'Hey, we just drafted you."'
Fitzpatrick grew up rooting for the Arizona Cardinals. He also rooted for the Los Angeles Rams.
"I was a huge Cardinal fan," Fitzpatrick said. "I was a huge Aeneas Williams fans. I was a huge Rams fan as well. I had a Jim Everett poster on my wall."
Fitzpatrick said he was uncertain how he figured into the Rams' plans. The team looks set at quarterback for the 2005 season with Bulger as the starter and either second-year signal caller Jeff Smoker or veteran Jamie Martin as the backup.
"We haven't really discussed the situation yet," Fitzpatrick said. "I know we have three other good quarterbacks in here right now, but I am excited for the opportunity."