TAMPA — Sixteen weeks have passed since they won Super Bowl 55, but Tom Brady and the Bucs looked and performed Tuesday the way they had at the end of that sceptered season.
Brady underwent knee surgery shortly after winning his seventh Lombardi Trophy in February, which prompted coach Bruce Arians to predict the 43-year-old quarterback might do “more coaching” than throwing this week.
But Brady orchestrated successful pass play after pass play, and the Bucs’ offense did not appear to skip a beat during a rhythmic 90-minute practice on the first day of mandatory minicamp.
“He looked fine,” Arians said of Brady. “I had to pull him out of that first period. I said, ‘Okay, you can have four.’ He kept begging to go back in, but the only thing I didn’t want him in was the blitz period. Some guys might get around him too quick.”
Every player was accounted for, although some, such as Ndamukong Suh, O.J. Howard, Antonio Brown and rookie Jaelon Darden, were held out of Tuesday’s workout as they recover from an assortment of injuries. None are expected to miss training camp, which begins July 24.
However, there was no slowing Brady, who had not participated in any of the team’s voluntary workouts. He looked sharp in directing the offense, and Arians said he was given assurances that Brady would be okay, even if he needed some convincing.
“The doctors and him. They both said he was good to go, and still be careful what we’re doing with him,” Arians said. “Trying to stop him from playing is pretty tough.”
While Brady has stayed away from voluntary workouts and lobbied for veterans to follow his lead, he has held throwing sessions with about a dozen receivers, running backs and tight ends at the team’s training facility for the past few weeks.
Those workouts, conducted around 7 a.m., have been said to be even more intense than the minicamp.
As a result, receiver Chris Godwin, who made several touchdown receptions during a red-zone period Tuesday, said it felt like the Bucs picked up right where they left off after beating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 55.
Arians met with players when they arrived for physicals Monday and set the tone Tuesday by telling them it was the start of a new year and to forget what they did in 2020.
“I think it’s as simple as it’s a new year,” Suh said. “Coach Arians did an amazing job of setting the tone during our team meeting today. It’s not being in the past and being able to celebrate that. We’ll have one more event prior to the season starting when we get our rings. But outside of that, the focus is on the task in front of us. This is the start here and in mandatory minicamp, and as we progress and continue to get into camp, everything that happened last year is really water under the bridge.
“He just really, in my opinion, laid out the pillars and expectations for every single guy, and you’ve got to come in here and earn your spot whether you’re a veteran like myself or a young guy. Everybody has an opportunity to come in here and earn their role, execute their role and be part of an opportunity to be able to go and earn another championship. But this is a totally different, new team.”
It may be, but when it came to execution, Godwin couldn’t help but remember how much Tuesday’s workout felt like a mere continuation of the Bucs’ Super Bowl season.
“Yeah, pretty much that’s how it felt like. It felt like we had a couple weeks’ break,” Godwin said. “It feels like we were not here too long ago, and I feel that’s one of the dope things about having everybody returning. There’s so many familiar faces and we’re just kind of picking up where we let off. It was good to be out there with the guys. We’ve started next year. We started the journey here, and it’s cool to be out there.
“I think Tom did a really good job.”
While Brady and backup Blaine Gabbert operated the starting offense against the starting defense on one practice field, rookie Kyle Trask and veteran Ryan Griffin directed a parallel practice on an adjacent one. That scrimmage included the offseason debut of first-round pick Joe Tryon, who had been out following arthroscopic knee surgery.
A year ago, Brady still was wearing a wristband in order to call the plays in the huddle and learning the nuances of Arians’ offense.
His familiarity with the playbook and his teammates was on full display during Tuesday’s workout.
“It’s the second, third, fourth read, where guys are going to be, knowing (where to throw),” Arians said. “He had some really good third or fourth options to Jaydon Mickens (Tuesday). That’s a guy he doesn’t work with all the time but he was spot-on in that stuff. All that verbiage isn’t new now, so he can spit it out, he knows what he means, he knows where they’re gong to be. Really pleased with the receivers today. Their conditioning and their route-spacing was outstanding.”
In fact, the only thing Arians looked closely for Tuesday was whether there would be any complacency from the Super Bowl champions now that all the champagne has gone flat.
“That’s the first thing I was looking for (Tuesday) and I didn’t see any,” Arians said. “Our guys know how to work, so I really don’t have to say anything. If it’s on offense, you’re probably going to get your (butt) chewed out by Brady. If you’re on defense, Lavonte (David) is probably chewing your (butt) out, so I really don’t have to say anything.”
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