NASHVILLE — The Bucs still expect Tom Brady to return to the team sometime after Saturday’s preseason game against the Titans but there’s “no definitive” date for him to rejoin the club, coach Todd Bowles said Thursday.
Brady was excused from the team for undisclosed “personal reasons” last week but the Bucs admitted the leave was planned before the start of training camp.
Following another joint practice with the Titans, Bowles said he could not pinpoint the date for Brady’s return.
“We’ll see. We’ll talk about it next week,” Bowles said. “I’m not concerned about it right now. We’re trying to practice against Tennessee and play a game. I said sometime after Tennessee. There’s no definitive date for me. We’ll think on it. We’ll keep in touch and find out.”
Bucs players will be off Sunday.
Bowles said backup Blaine Gabbert has performed well in Brady’s absence and all the quarterbacks have benefitted from the extra playing time.
“He’s been good. It’s been great for him mentally,” Bowles said of Gabbert. “The plays might not be there all the time, but the mental reps is what he’s getting and making the right play is very important, not just making the wow play. So it’s been good work for him.”
You would expect Brady to return in time to play in the final preseason game at Indianapolis Aug. 27. Since he was not going to play in the first two preseason games, Bowles had said Brady wanted to get work early in camp with some of the Bucs’ new receivers, such as Russell Gage and Julio Jones.
Thompkins stands out
From the start of the first red zone drill until the two-minute team work at the end of practice, Bucs free-agent receiver Deven Thompkins put on a show.
He made several leaping touchdown catches in the end zone over Titans defensive backs in a passing drill and continued his good play all afternoon.
“Everything that came to me, I’m pretty sure I caught it,” said Thompkins, the rookie from Utah State. “I’m learning from the best how to do this. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m just enjoying it. That’s what the game of football is all about. We’re entertainers. When the lights come on, you can’t be scared.”
Bowles said he’s been impressed with rookie receivers such as Thompkins, Jerreth Sterns and Kaylon Geiger.
“They’re doing a heck of a job,” Bowles said. “To come in training camp and then play in a game like that, then have a full week of practice and play special teams, those guys are making a case.”
Things get heated again
The Bucs and Titans avoided the physicality of practice from getting out of hand for the most part. But almost predictably, the two-day joint workouts ended with both sidelines emptying onto the field in a skirmish.
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On the Bucs side, running back Leonard Fournette lost his cool. On the Titans side, it was defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons.
Not surprising, Simmons was the player who struck a glancing blow to Duke Preston, the Bucs’ director of player engagement, during a pass rush drill Wednesday. Preston, who was taking snaps as the faux quarterback in the drill, reacted by throwing the ball at Simmons.
”It’s unfortunate the last play you try to get into a skirmish,” Bowles said. “We got some good work against these guys. They have a good team, we feel like we have a good team and there’s no need for that in practice. Luckily it didn’t go that far and we got it taken care of.”
Right tackle Tristan Wirfs left practice following a one-on-one pass rush drill with what appeared to be an abdominal pull or injury to his right side. Cornerback Zyon McCollum suffered a left hamstring strain in coverage drills and did not return.
Bowles had no updates on their condition following practice. “I wasn’t there when Wirfs got hurt, I just heard of it,” he said. “McCollum hurt his leg a little bit. He said it wasn’t serious, but I’ll find out when I go to the training room.”
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