Tampa Bay quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick during the second half of...

Tampa Bay quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick during the second half of against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Oct.15, 2017. Credit: Getty Images / Christian Petersen

Ryan Fitzpatrick said his final year with the Jets in 2016 was one of the hardest of his career and he considered retirement because of it.

Fitzpatrick, now with the Buccaneers, will face his former team on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

“Yeah, I thought about it,” the 34-year old Fitzpatrick said on a conference call on Wednesday. “It was an interesting two years there, 2015 being a year where I had so much fun playing and then 2016 being the toughest year of my career just in terms of my performance and not meeting expectations personally and as a team.”

Last season, Fitzpatrick was benched twice, threw 12 touchdown passes, 17 interceptions and ended the season with a 3-8 record as a starter. The Jets finished 5-11, and when the offseason began, Fitzpatrick wasn’t offered a new contract.

Retirement became something on the forefront of Fitzpatrick’s mind.

“I had to step away and think about it a little bit and make a decision for all kinds of different reasons,” Fitzpatrick said. “But one of the driving factors for me, I still enjoy playing. My boys can really understand it and get it, so that definitely played into it as well.”

Fitzpatrick will start against the Jets because Jameis Winston is out with an injured throwing shoulder. Fitzpatrick played in Sunday’s loss to the Saints, in which he completed 8 of 15 passes for 68 yards with one touchdown. But on Oct. 15, when he took over for a nicked up Winston against the Cardinals, he completed 22 of 32 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

It was then Fitzpatrick grew to love the game a little more.

“But when I played in the Arizona game this year, which was my first action as a Buc, playing in the second half, I really had a lot of fun out there,” he said. “I’m happy with the decision I made to come back.”

Fitzpatrick still holds the Jets franchise record for touchdowns in a single season at 31, set in 2015.

“It’s ironic that I move on to another team and the first start I’m going to have is against the Jets,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m excited about the opportunity. I know there’s stuff with me being there the last two years, more than anything [just] do my best for this team. We’re sitting at 2-6, it’s been disappointing how this season has gone so far. Just trying to fill in and find a way to get us a win.”

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