Bryce Petty wishes he could join in.

But all the Jets' rookie quarterback can do is sit there. And listen.

"Sometimes, I kind of get a third-wheel kind of vibe," Petty said, pouting ever so slightly before cracking a smile. "They tell jokes that I don't understand and they talk about different things . . .

"I joke about being a third wheel, but at the same time, it really is like that."

The bond between starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey was forged years ago, over three seasons together in Buffalo. And that shared history already has proved to be an asset for the Jets, who opened the season with a convincing 31-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns last week and face the Colts in Indianapolis tomorrow night.

"It's just helpful to be able to draw on past experiences," Fitzpatrick said. "In terms of whether it's situational football or whether it's certain coverages or routes or things that you've seen, It's just nice to have that.

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" . . . He's like a great-grandfather," Fitzpatrick deadpanned, before delivering a mischievous grin. "Yeah, I would say great-grandfather. Cause our age difference, I mean, there is a huge gap."

Tucked away in their own meeting-room sessions, Fitzpatrick, 32, and Gailey, 63, discuss play calls and opposing defenses with ease. Their dialogues are familiar and far simpler now, having reached the point where they can anticipate each other's sentences.

"They both know exactly what the other's thinking," Petty said. "And as a quarterback, I think that's exactly what you want. One of the things I love about Chan is he'll ask Fitz every week, what are the plays that you like, what are the plays you don't like? He wants Fitz comfortable."

When Gailey was asked on Aug. 11 -- before reporters even knew that incumbent Geno Smith had suffered a broken jaw -- if he can rely on Fitzpatrick should something happen to Smith, the offensive coordinator said: "Yes, there's no question about it. That's from prior knowledge as well as present day."

And with Smith still on the mend, Jets players have expressed the utmost confidence in Fitzpatrick.

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He was impressive against the Browns, throwing two touchdowns. But he also threw an interception, which luckily for the Jets, was stripped and recovered by receiver Brandon Marshall. "We all wish he hadn't thrown the interception, but . . . that's going to happen from time to time," Gailey said. "I thought he managed the game extremely well. I thought he made some great throws. I liked a lot."

The basis for their close relationship is trust.

"They talk to each other with a level of confidence," center Nick Mangold said. " . . . They've been through enough where they know they're not going to offend, they're not going to take anything personal."

Gailey understands what Fitzpatrick is capable of and he knows that the veteran signal-caller "is so smart that he's able to be two steps ahead of, probably all of us," right guard Willie Colon said. And that rapport is evident on game day.

"When you've got a horse that you've been having in the stable, it's your 'Old Faithful.' And that's what Fitz is to him," Colon said. "He's his 'Old Faithful.'

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"Fitz is a great quarterback. He understands the system, he knows how to get rid of the ball, he doesn't make mistakes, and if anything, they think alike out there. So they pretty much have the same mind -- just like a [Bill] Belichick and [Tom] Brady. They understand their system and they understand what works."

Gailey is an old-school football coach; a straight shooter, who's about X's and O's first. He's methodical and extremely precise, every play call drawn up for a specific reason. There's no hidden agenda with him, no game plans designed "just because," Mangold said. And the offensive coordinator isn't the least bit swayed by players' feelings.

"He's not going to B.S. you, he's not going to beat around the bush," Petty said. "If you did it wrong, he'll tell you. But it's done in a coachable way. It's not belittling, it doesn't make you feel like you're the worst player to ever touch the field.

"He's never cussed at me once. And I've done plenty of things for him to cuss me for," the rookie said, smiling.

Gailey is known for being a no-nonsense kind of guy, but he also has a dry sense of humor.

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"When he's in there with Fitz and we're in the film room, he cuts up," Petty said. "Fitz gets him laughing."

"Fitz is funny as hell," Colon said. "As much as he's an athlete he has a great sense of humor. And that's important . . . He's very focused and very serious, but keeps everything light too. His energy in the huddle is so good. Even when we're in a tough situation, he'll crack a smile or do something silly just to let everybody know that we'll be OK. That's just a good sign of leadership."