INDIANAPOLIS, QMI AGENCY - If Ryan Fitzpatrick played with cracked ribs over the last half of the 2011 season, it's news to Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey.
Buffalo wideout David Nelson claimed Fitzpatrick "cracked a few ribs" in a vicious hit during a game against the Redskins at Toronto's Rogers Centre in October. Neither Fitzpatrick nor the Bills offence was ever the same after that game.
"I knew he’d taken a shot," Gailey told reporters Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "It was more in the chest, I thought, than it was in the ribs.
"He didn’t miss practice. He was nursing it but he really didn’t miss practice. I don’t know if it was that but we started getting receivers hurt, and we started getting linemen hurt. I think that had something to do with it. Scott Chandler got hurt late in the year. I think that had as much to do with it as anything. I knew he had taken that shot. I didn’t know anything about the broken (ribs) part."
Gailey addressed other Bills off-season matters on Thursday.
Asked whether running back C.J. Spiller — who ably filled in when Fred Jackson went down with a season-ending injury — is an every-down back, Gailey didn't hesitate to heap praise on him.
"He could be an every-down back," Gailey said. "I don’t see any reason that he couldn’t carry it 20 or 25 (times per game) if he needed to. But he’s a valuable, versatile player; he can play wideout."
Jackson is fully healed from the broken bone he suffered in his lower right leg in November. Both running backs will see the field at the same time in 2012, Gailey said.
"We’re fortunate enough to have two very good backs, so I’m going to try to make sure we keep them fresh and wear them out at the same time — does that make sense?" Gailey said. "But you want them to be on the field doing something — running routes, creating threats for the defence — but not each one of them taking a pounding and both of them carrying it a lot of times every game.
"Am I saying they’re going to be in the game at the same time? I’m sure they will be. Now don’t hold me to what percentage, but they will be."
Asked how important it is to re-sign free agent Stevie Johnson, Gailey showed no signs of the frustration he obviously felt with the team's No. 1 wide receiver late in the year. Gailey benched Johnson in the season finale when he took a penalty for showboating after a score.
"He’s very important to us and we’d love to have him," Gailey said. "The thing you learn to say in this business, you don’t ever want to say you can’t live without somebody. As soon as you say that you learn to live without him. We would like to have him. He’s very important to our football team. He made a bunch of big plays for us and hopefully it works out — but it’s a business."