TAMPA — Before Cole Beasley could find a way to slip into the Bucs’ huddle, he had to slide into Tom Brady’s direct messages.
The receiver has always wanted to play with Brady. But Beasley, a 10-year NFL veteran released by the Bills in March, didn’t know if he would make it back to the NFL after not getting an opportunity from any team during training camp, and the 33-year-old’s prospects were bleak two weeks into the regular season.
Beasley didn’t have Brady’s phone number, so he said he hit up the Bucs quarterback on Instagram.
“I’m going to be honest, I was hitting him up a lot. I slid into his (direct messages) for sure,” Beasley said. “I’m sure a lot of guys do that. It’s been awhile. He didn’t really say anything until recently.
“I’ve been wanting to play with Brady for a long time, so it’s exciting for me. I’m excited for the opportunity and just ready to get back at it. You know, it’s a humbling experience kind of waiting this long. It’s the first time I’ve never been through a (training) camp. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
The Bucs signed Beasley to the practice squad Wednesday. But with the league Wednesday denying Mike Evans’ appeal of his one-game suspension for his role in a fight Sunday against the Saints, and with injuries continuing to mount at receiver, Beasley may be needed for Sunday’s game against the Packers.
“Cole is a viable receiver. We’ll see right now. He hasn’t played in a while,” coach Todd Bowles said. “He’s been on the street, really. We’ve got to see what he knows and what kind of shape he’s in, and we’ll kind of go from there.
“We have depth. But anytime you lose quite a few guys at any one spot, you’ve got to worry a little bit. But we’ve got guys who need to step up and make plays, and we kept them around for a reason, so they’ve just got to go in and perform.”
Consider how banged up the Bucs are at receiver. Julio Jones (knee) and Chris Godwin (hamstring) missed Sunday’s game at New Orleans and did not practice Wednesday. Russell Gage (hamstring), Breshad Perriman (knee) and Scotty Miller (calf) were limited Wednesday.
When healthy, the Bucs have one of the most star-studded receiver rooms in the NFL. Beasley has 550 career receptions with the Bills and Cowboys, and fits right in. Last season he had 82 catches for 693 yards and a touchdown for the Bills. But after going unsigned for so long after his release, he didn’t know if he would get another shot at playing in the NFL.
“I was ready to get in somewhere and show that I could still play,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys here who have had a lot of success. So really, I look at it as you can take a lot from each guy, you know? There’s something we can each get from each other and make each other better, so I’m excited for that.”
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Beasley was assigned a No. 15 jersey and began his first practice during the special-teams period by fielding punts. He dropped his first attempt, picked up the ball and nearly collided with tight end Ko Kieft before his helmet flew off.
Beasley’s career in Buffalo ended unceremoniously. He was vocal about opposing the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols and declined to get vaccinated. He tested positive for the coronavirus in December and missed a game. Despite having a year remaining on his contract, the Bills were unable to trade Beasley, leading to his release.
At 5 feet 8 and 174 pounds, Beasley is similar to the slot receivers Brady had success with in New England, such as Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.
“That was one of the reasons I always wanted to play for him,” Beasley said. “He’s had a lot of success with those types of guys.”
Perriman sounded as if the injuries in the receiver room should not be a problem, whether Beasley plays or not.
“Just like any other week. No matter who is out there, no matter what defender, you’re going out there expecting to win,” said Perriman, who caught Brady’s only touchdown at New Orleans. “That’s the mindset of anyone in that room, rookies included. That’s the standard we put on ourselves.”
Though Brady was scheduled to take a day off Wednesday, he practiced. Perhaps it was another opportunity to gain some rhythm with what’s left of the receiving corps. Beasley said he had spent most of his time with receivers coach Kevin Garver learning the plays for Sunday’s home opener.
“This is the perfect situation,” Beasley said. “I’m just happy to be a part of it. Whatever my role is, I’ll fulfill it. Wherever they need me, I’m just coming in and helping any way I can.”
Contact Rick Stroud at email@example.com. Follow @NFLSTROUD.
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