TAMPA ― It’s nearly time for another episode of Tommy & Gronky, the kiddie pool toe-dipping, palm tree-waving, beach chair-sitting Florida bro-cation that ended with a championship in Super Bowl 55.
They are back to defend their title with humor and just the right amount of hubris.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski had a lot of fun during the skits produced by the Bucs’ social media team last year.
But the last laugh belonged to the quarterback. The season ended with a drunken Brady tossing the Lombardi Trophy over the Hillsborough River. The jokes continued for Brady in viral videos, at the White House and during the Bucs’ ring ceremony last week.
Brady has been self-deprecating on late night shows and refreshingly edgy during interviews on HBO’s ’'The Shop.” During a podcast with Jim Gray, he compared himself to Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretsky and said of NFL execs, “there aren’t as many smart people as you think there are.”
The version of Brady that Tampa Bay is seeing is closer to what Gronkowski has known his quarterback to be behind closed locker room doors in New England all those years.
But it’s totally different than the buttoned up, cliché-spitting version of Brady NFL fans became accustomed to during 20 seasons, nine Super Bowl appearances and six championships in New England.
“I think it’s great that he’s showing that side,” Gronkowski said. “I think it’s great for football, I think it’s great for the fans. I think it’s great for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When you’re playing a sport, you don’t want to be uptight. You want to always be loose and ready to go, and it’s just cool to see that side of him, doing all that activity, all the little silly comments, the jokes. It keeps everyone loose and on their toes. And it’s fun, too.”
Brady and Gronkowski were given Wednesday off and there is no practice Thursday. Brady, 43, covered a few receivers during passing drills and stepped in for a handoff as a running back. He yucked it up with teammates while offering encouragement.
“Yeah, I think Tom’s very comfortable in our locker room and with our coaches and our fans,’' coach Bruce Arians said. “I think that personality is showing more and more. We love seeing it.”
Since arriving in Tampa Bay, Brady has been loose and extremely generous with his new teammates. In fact, they almost seemed bemused when asked about Brady’s relaxed persona with the Bucs.
“I don’t know what ya’ll paint the guy as, like he’s an alien or something,” tackle Donovan Smith said. “He has a sense of humor. He’s human. I don’t know what you all want me to say. He likes to have fun. I mean, who doesn’t? Everybody likes to have fun, joke around.”
Linebacker Devin White says Brady hasn’t changed since the first day he arrived with the Bucs: serious as can be about his craft on the field and joking with teammates off it.
“He’s still as serious as he was from Day 1,” White said. “He doesn’t let anybody slack. ... To me, he’s always been a loose guy from the first day I met him. He’s just like one of us. He jokes around. He does all the things we do. He eats in the cafeteria with us. I’m still seeing the same person. I think I’m seeing a better person on the field. He’s more comfortable.”
He’s also more healthy. The Times reported that Brady played the entire 2020 season with a torn MCL that he had surgically repaired in Febraury. By the end of the week, he wasn’t even wearing a knee brace.
“Tom’s toughness is to another level,” Gronkowski said. “Sometimes you don’t even know what he’s dealing with and he’s just dealing with it on his own. I mean, that just shows another level of toughness, actually, just to go through it and not put it on anyone else. Just deal with it in your inner circle, which is a huge sign of just mental toughness. Just going out there and being able to perform at a high level.
“But he’s been always showing that toughness mentality throughout his whole career, and he just does whatever he needs to do to get it done. It’s impressive.”
And with the Bucs, Brady’s been a heck of a lot more fun, too.
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