New Bills' backup says all the right things

Vince Young speaks to the press for the first time as a Buffalo Bill, at Ralph Wilson Stadium in...

Vince Young speaks to the press for the first time as a Buffalo Bill, at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. (REUTERS)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:12 PM ET

Vince Young had to say it, and did.

At his introductory news conference in Buffalo Tuesday, the former marquee NFL quarterback needed to step up to the microphone and tell the world he has accepted his role on the Bills -- as a backup to starter Ryan Fitzpatrick.

That's precisely what Young did. And he sounded convincing, too.

"He's our starting quarterback and I'm behind him 100%," Young said of Fitzpatrick.

On Friday, the Bills and the free-agent Young agreed to terms on a reported one-year, $2-million contract. The club emphasized that Young's role is to compete with Tyler Thigpen to be the No. 2 quarterback, rather than with Fitzpatrick.

"You have to be always ready, because you never know what's going to happen," Young said. "If it's staying in shape, if it's extra studying ... getting extra throws in on Tuesdays and all during the week, that's the biggest thing about being a backup quarterback. You've got to stay ready because your number could get called any minute."

Listen, this can't be easy for Young.

In 2006, he entered the NFL as one of the most celebrated QBs to come out of the college ranks in years, after a head-shakingly impressive turn as a dual-threat star at the University of Texas. Young showed only glimpses of that brilliance, however, in his first two seasons with the Tennessee Titans.

In his third year, an injury sidelined him and Young lost his job to veteran Kerry Collins. It took him a year to get it back.

Young proceeded to throw twice as many touchdowns as interceptions for the Titans between October 2009 and November 2010 -- a sure sign of on-field progress. But he and head coach Jeff Fisher had a falling out that signaled the end of Young's tenure in Tennessee.

As an unrestricted free agent last summer, Young waited in vain for offers to flood in. Eventually he signed with Philly to be Michael Vick's backup.

Apparently he expected to see the field quite a bit, as before the season he infamously crowed that the Eagles now had a "dream team."

Instead, it was a nightmare. The Eagles got off to a horrible start and missed the playoffs. Young started three games in place of the injured Vick, rocking in the first start -- a win on a Sunday night against the Giants -- then flopping badly in the next two, both losses, before Vick returned.

The Eagles chose not to re-sign Young. For more than a month after becoming an unrestricted free agent on March 13, he received zero offers even though plenty of teams were desperate to upgrade at quarterback.

That says more than anything about how far Young's stock has fallen since 2006.

Should he indeed beat out Tyler Thigpen to be Fitzpatrick's backup, it's not as though Young would be entering unfamiliar territory. Over the past four seasons he has worn a ball cap during games, or been injured, far more times (42) than he's worn a helmet and played (22).

"I'm pretty much used to it," he said of being a second-stringer.

Young has plenty of critics in the NFL. It is said he had a terrible work ethic in Tennessee, was averse to accepting coaching and, for those reasons and others, never learned the finer points of quarterbacking in the NFL.

Young said he hears the criticisms, if indirectly, but doesn't let it get to him anymore.

"My whole thing is that I use it as motivation to silence my doubters," he said. "I have a huge doubter base. I used to feed into that, but my biggest thing is not feeding into that.

"The biggest thing is I just want to go out and play football, help out in any way I can."

Some star athletes need a heaping helping of humble pie before they realize how hard they must work to be successful at the next level.

Vince Young turns 29 on Friday. By NFL quarterback standards that's not old. When you consider that Jim Plunkett, Rich Gannon and many others had their best years in their 30s, it's possible Young's are ahead of him.

Saying what he did Tuesday was a good start.

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

@JohnKryk

blogs.canoe.ca/krykslants/


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