Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick did not participate in the team’s scrimmage on Saturday to mourn the death of his mother.
Fitzpatrick wanted to practice with the team on Saturday, jogging onto the Hard Rock Stadium field alongside fellow quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Josh Rosen before the team scrimmaged for the first time during training camp.
But Fitzpatrick’s time on the field was short-lived.
Fitzpatrick and Dolphins coach Brian Flores walked together in step, both with one arm around the other in an interaction that was significantly more personal than just a day off for the veteran quarterback.
“On behalf of my family, I want to thank everyone who has reached out with well wishes,” Fitzpatrick said in a social media post by the team with a photo of him and his mother, Lori.
“It truly means a lot to us.”
Flores — who empathized with Fitzpatrick after losing his own mother in March 2019, shortly after being hired as the Dolphins coach — said Fitzpatrick will be allowed to miss as much time as he needs.
Flores reiterated twice during his post-scrimmage press conference that Fitzpatrick will not retire and has not decided to opt out of the season. Those were a few trains of thought when Fitzpatrick left the team for two days last week to tend to what the Dolphins deemed as a personal issue at the time.
Although Flores believes Fitzpatrick could use his potential return to the team as an outlet to grieve his loss, he did not want to speculate on whether Fitzpatrick’s potential absence could affect his starting quarterback’s availability for the season opener on the road against the Sept. 13.
“We’re going to give him this time to grieve, and my thought on this is he’s going to try to get back as quickly as he can because that’s the competitive nature in him,” Flores said.
“And like a lot of us, football is our sanctuary, and it’s our place to get away from the tough times, the pain, the anguish in our lives. I know he’ll probably try to get back as soon as he can, but we’re going to give him as much time as he wants or needs.”
Before the scrimmage, shortly after Fitzpatrick left the field, the Dolphins players and coaches kneeled together for a prayer.
“I told Fitz that I’m here from him. But it was something that was more so emotional for me too because I thought of my own mom,” Tagovailoa said of Fitzpatrick after scrimmaging as the first-team quarterback.
“So being given those circumstances and being told I had to go out with the first group today, it wasn’t something that I was nervous to do. But I kind of felt what Fitz was going through. I got emotional when Fitz started leaving too when we were about to pray as a team.
“That’s not something that’s easy,” Tagovailoa added. “I reached out to him letting him letting him know that he’s in my prayers and that he’s been on my mind and heart and if they need anything they can reach out to me — that I’m here.”
Rosen, who was afforded a greater opportunity to participate in Saturday’s scrimmage, said he has tried to support Fitzpatrick any way he could.
“Ryan’s mom raised a hell of a kid,” Rosen said of Fitzpatrick. “(He’s a) really strong, awesome, independent, kind dude. I’ve been fortunate enough to be around him these last couple of months, a year now. Yeah, it’s a tough situation. Kind of puts everything in perspective and reminds you we’re all still human, and human things happen.”
When Fitzpatrick does return to the team, his teammates hope to be helpful in any way they can.
“A mother and son’s bond is something like no other,” Dolphins receiver Isaiah Ford, who sparked a friendship with Fitzpatrick last season.
“I couldn’t imagine if it was me, and I just want him to know that whatever we can do as an extended family to support him and help him mourn his loss, that we’ll be here for him, you know and just that I love him like a brother.”
Added safety Eric Rowe: “We all feel for him. We all have our prayers going for him and when he comes back, he’s going to come back to a family.”
©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)