TAMPA — Apparently nothing is going to stop Tom Brady and the Bucs from preparing for the 2020 season.
Not recent confirmation that at least two Bucs players and one assistant coach have tested positive for COVID-19. Not the stern recommendation by the NFL Players Association on Saturday that players “stop practicing together” until the start of training camps next month.
Not the alarming increase in COVID-19 cases that has doctors warning Florida could become the epicenter of the virus.
On Tuesday, Brady led at least a dozen Bucs players onto a field at Berkeley Preparatory School for a two-hour workout that began around 7 a.m.
Wearing a helmet, shoulder pads and the orange non-contact jersey, Brady organized the usual assortment of passing drills at the private school that has become their offseason home. The practices have become routine during a time that players are not permitted at NFL team training facilities.
But on Saturday the Bucs confirmed “there have been individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 at the AdventHealth Training Center,” less than 48 hours after one of the team’s assistant coaches was reported to have tested positive and two other assistants were quarantined.
The same day, NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer released a statement recommending players to stop "practicing together" until the start of training camps in late July.
‘‘Please be advised that it is our consensus medical opinion that in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases in certain states that no players should be engaged in practicing together in private workouts,” Mayer wrote. “Our goal is to have all players and your families as healthy as possible in the coming months.
“We are working on the best mitigation procedures at team facilities for both training camps and the upcoming season and believe that it is in the best interest of all players that we advise against any voluntary joint practices before training camp commences.”
In fact, two days ago Bucs coach Bruce Arians took part in a video for Hillsborough County where he gave some safety tips to fans on how to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
‘‘During these difficult times, it’s important that we all show we care about our community’s health,” Arians says in the video. ‘’You could spread COVID-19 without knowing it. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance from each other. Stay strong and go Bucs.”
Mayer’s recommendation came amid a rise in positive COVID-19 cases among NFL players and team employees.
In addition to the Bucs players and coach testing positive, a 49ers player who was working out with teammates in Nashville, multiple players for the Texans and Cowboys — including running back Ezekiel Elliott — and Broncos defensive back Kareem Jackson all have tested positive for the virus.
Brady posted pictures of the workout, including one standing next to tight end Rob Gronkowski, that read “No Excuses.”
When asked about the Bucs workout Tuesday, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy referred to a statement the league made in May. “Everyone associated with the NFL should follow the recommendations and guidelines of state and local authorities and medical experts, including the NFLPA.”
What began as mostly offensive players working out at Berkeley Prep has morphed into almost a gathering of skill players on both sides of the football.
On Tuesday, it was evident Brady’s workout has grown substantially over the past month to include defensive backs such as cornerbacks Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting and safety Mike Edwards, along with the usual group of receivers such as Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller and Gronkowski. Quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin, and center Ryan Jensen also have been fixtures at the Berkeley Prep workouts and participated Tuesday.
A couple weeks ago, Arians gushed over Brady’s leadership and the way he has bonded with his teammates during these non-team sanctioned workouts.
“I love it. It’s exactly what he is and who he is,” Arians said. “It’s a great interaction of those guys helping him learn what we do through the Zoom meetings and then taking it out on the field. It’s great team building for what we can do at these times. I applaud him for starting it, and more and more guys are joining in.”
Brady got off to a rough start after signing a two-year, $50 million contract with the Bucs in March. He was kicked out of closed Tampa park during a workout and walked into the wrong home looking for offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who lived next door.
But Brady has demonstrated the drive and determination that has enabled him to win six Super Bowl rings in 20 seasons with the Patriots since arriving in Tampa Bay.
“The way he runs our workouts, it’s like a practice,” running back Dare Ogunbowale said on the Zach Gelb Show. “Instead of just telling us to run a dig (route) or something like that, he’s telling us the full play call. He’s doing his cadence as if we’re in a game. He’s doing adjustments, doing the hots and sights. With a guy like him, it’s really easy to kind of be building chemistry and emulating that whole practice environment.”
Arians said the Bucs are hoping to hold a quarterback school and rookie orientation July 15. Bucs players are scheduled to report July 21.