TAMPA — There still are enough champagne bottles remaining for the Bucs to toast their Super Bowl 55 championship before they begin preparing to defend their title when training camp opens in a couple weeks.
Even as the Lightning embark on another boat parade for winning a second straight Stanley Cup, two major events will celebrate Tom Brady and the Bucs’ performance during the 2020 season.
Brady is nominated for Best Athlete, Men’s Sports and Best NFL Player, while the Bucs are up for Best Team at the ESPYs, which will be televised live from New York City Saturday on ABC.
Representing the Bucs at the ESPYs will be receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and running backs Ronald Jones and LeSean McCoy.
On July 22, the Bucs will receive their Super Bowl 55 rings at a private ceremony in Tampa.
For a team that won eight games in a row after a 7-5 start to become the first to win a Super Bowl in its home stadium, the ceremony will represent the last chance to put a bow on the 2020 season. Two days later, players will report to training camp.
Evans says he’s not sure what emotions may bubble to the surface when he receives his Super Bowl ring.
“We’ll have to see when they present us the rings,” he said. “Right now, I’m saying I won’t be emotional, but when it comes, you never know, it could just hit you. It’s definitely a huge accomplishment. I’m definitely going to cherish the ring and leave it for my kids and my kids’ kids. Hopefully, I can have multiple in my lifetime.”
It was an incredible run for Brady and the Bucs. Having left the New England Patriots after 20 seasons, the 43-year-old quarterback signed a two-year, $50 million contract with Tampa Bay just as the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
Without the benefit of an offseason workout program or preseason games, Brady passed for 4,633 yards with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions during the regular season. He was even more proficient in the post-season, adding another 1,061 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions.
Brady is the favorite to win an ESPY as Best Athlete, Men’s Sports, a category that includes Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton. Brady also is nominated for Best NFL Player, along with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Titans running back Derrick Henry.
The Bucs are competing for an ESPY for Best Team with the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers, national championship Alabama football team, Oklahoma women’s softball, Baylor men’s basketball, Stanford women’s basketball and WNBA’s Seattle Storm.
Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is nominated for Best NHL Player for 2020, along with the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane, Oilers’ McDavid and Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews.
The Bucs are no strangers to the ESPYs. They were nominated for Best Team after winning Super Bowl 37 but lost to the World Series champion Los Angeles Angels. Jon Gruden won an ESPY for Best Coach/Manager. However, the show may be best remembered for host Jamie Foxx serenading Serena Williams and giving a shoutout to Keyshawn Johnson, who was dating the tennis star at the time.
After picking up their rings, the Bucs’ focus will have to flip quickly to 2021, even if 22 starters return from their Super Bowl 55 team.
’'It’s always about improving,” Evans said. “We obviously reached our goal last year. We definitely could’ve been better throughout the season offensively, and that’s what we’re looking for, to be more dominant this year and just making a lot of plays and having fun out there.”
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