The desperately needed bye week the Bucs are observing includes a historical, if not mildly humorous, component.
The only other time the franchise had a December bye, in Week 14 of the 1990 season, owner Hugh Culverhouse used it to dismiss surly fourth-year coach Ray Perkins.
While no one expects history to repeat itself this week inside the AdventHealth Training Center, drastic measures do come in various forms.
Will the Bucs (7-5) take any to reverse their trend of slow starts (they’ve been outscored 52-7 in the first quarter of their last four games), resolve their third-down futility (opponents are converting 50 percent of the time when the Bucs play at home) or modify an offense that is being nationally maligned?
Possibly, though a glaring need — offensive practice time, to build continuity — likely won’t be addressed extensively.
At the earliest, no player or staffer will be in the building until Wednesday after the NFL mandated all its facilities be closed Monday and Tuesday in response to a potential post-Thanksgiving spike in COVID-19 cases.
“We’ll be back in Wednesday and get everything settled as far as going back to the self-scouting stuff,” coach Bruce Arians said, “and get a good handle on the Vikings (the Dec. 13 foe) and get the game plan set, and have the weekend off.”
Such is the dilemma facing an offense that has bemoaned its lack of practice reps.
In a conventional season, Tom Brady likely would be using every waking hour of the week trying to build an on-field clairvoyance with his receivers and running backs, some of whom didn’t arrive until the dawn (Leonard Fournette) or midpoint (Antonio Brown) of the season.
But in this unprecedented autumn, the Bucs must strike a delicate balance between practice and prudence. As Arians noted, some teams returning off a bye week have experienced coronavirus issues, including the Raiders, who had four starting offensive linemen on the COVID-19 list in their first post-bye week game against the Bucs in late October. Tampa Bay won, 45-20.
Similarly, the Giants had three players test positive during their recent bye week.
“It definitely changes the bye week,” Bucs receiver Chris Godwin said.
“I think whereas guys would normally get out of town, obviously we can’t do that. So I think guys are staying around, making sure that they’re staying safe and spending time with family. But, really, it just comes down to being smart.”
The obvious upside to the facility closures and coronavirus precautions is the rest it affords the handful of injured players. Left tackle Donovan Smith played Sunday’s game against the Chiefs on one healthy ankle, while cornerback Jamel Dean currently is in concussion protocol.
Left guard Ali Marpet played Sunday for the first time since entering concussion protocol in early November. Godwin has spent the last month playing with several pins in his hand inserted during Oct. 27 surgery for a fractured left index finger.
“We have a lot that we’re playing for,” Godwin said, “and we have to commit to each other as a team to be smart about where we are and making sure that everyone stays healthy.”