TAMPA — Shadows still covered a good portion of the east practice field at the AdventHealth Training Center when Bucs camp started Tuesday morning.
It began like any other workout. Stretching. Some light jogging. But here’s how you knew a new day was dawning for the Bucs.
Tom Brady greeted running back LeSean McCoy with a hug. He loosened up his arm with a toss to Rob Gronkowski. Soon he was firing strikes to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and Cameron Brate.
With the exception of McCoy, who officially signed his one-year deal before practice, Brady has been throwing footballs to a lot of his new teammates since March, holding organized workouts at Berkeley Preparatory School.
But Tuesday marked the first day that these workouts with 23 offensive players at the team facility included reporters, and the sound of cameras to capture what still has a feel of surrealism.
Tom Brady. Rob Gronkowski. Shady McCoy. The 2020 Bucs.
There have been a lot of seasons that have begun with the promise of a new quarterback.
Doug Williams, a first-round draft pick, took the Bucs to an NFC title game. Steve Young was eventually traded to the 49ers to make room for Vinny Testaverde. In the latter’s first practice under Sam Wyche, the new Bucs coach commented that he noticed Testaverde “didn’t run into the goal post.”
From there, it was Steve DeBerg and Craig Erickson and Trent Dilfer and Shaun King and Brad Johnson and Chris Simms and Brian Griese and Jeff Garcia and Josh Freeman and Josh McCown and Mike Glennon and Jameis Winston.
But Brady, even at 43, with his six Super Bowls rings after 20 seasons in New England, still looks out of place working for a franchise that has not reached the postseason in 12 years.
His passes were precise. He shouted encouragement to his receivers.
The Bucs still are in the early days of this full squad training camp, in shorts and T-shirts. No helmets. This is the strength and conditioning period. In a week they will add helmets and eventually be in full pads to prepare for a season under a myriad of COVID-19 protocols.
The training facility has moved some of its weight training equipment outside under an awning, giving it the feel of the old One Buc Place woodshed.
But for 30 minutes Tuesday, the Bucs opened a portion of the workout for the media. Even a length of a football field away, separated by markers on a fence spaced 6 feet apart, the view was startling.
Brady. Gronkowski. McCoy.
A new day, indeed.