TAMPA — Bucs linebacker Anthony Nelson said the quiet part out loud. He doesn’t miss all the “buzz” that came along with Tom Brady.
In fact, Nelson said his team may benefit by being written off by so many after the GOAT retired for the second time.
“It was amazing playing with Tom but with that comes a bunch of buzz,” Nelson told WDAE. “I think just being under the radar is going to be good for us. ...
“Inside the building, it feels the same (without Brady), a lot of guys, like, ready to go to work. We’ve still got the same culture. (Coach Todd) Bowles has made sure of that and he’s done a really good job of that so far. It’s been mostly outside the building that’s been the difference.”
It’s not just media who have low expectations for the Bucs. Start with the NFL itself. The league gave Tampa Bay a bye week after only four games. Schedule-makers tend to place the bye week closer to the middle of the season for the teams they believe will be contenders and attractive to their television partners.
The Bucs have only two prime-time games: Monday Night Football versus the Eagles on Sept. 25 and a Thursday Night Football game at Buffalo on Oct. 26. Twelve of the Bucs’ games are at 1 p.m., which means they’re not likely to be seen by much of the nation.
There also are fewer distractions.
Nelson said a media frenzy was “surrounding us constantly the last three years just because of Tom.”
Last season provided more drama as the divorce between Brady and Gisele Bündchen filled tabloid covers. Brady lost about 20 pounds, missed two weeks of the preseason and generally appeared miserable in absorbing the first losing record of his career.
The Bucs have gone from the oldest team in the NFL to one of the youngest, and the energy of the club is not lost on the 26-year-old Nelson.
“It’s kind of bringing that youthful joy back to us, where it’s just getting out there and playing, just competing, trying to win,” he said.
Despite the hotter spotlight, here’s what you also got with Brady: playoff checks. Tampa Bay made the postseason three years in a row, winning a Super Bowl. Before that for the Bucs? Twelve seasons, no playoffs and a lot of 1 p.m. games.
Call me Sir
Bucs rookie linebacker SirVocea Dennis, the team’s fifth-round pick from Pittsburgh, is off to a fast start in training camp. He had two interceptions in a week, both coming in the red zone.
Dennis and former Pitt teammate Calijah Kancey are very cerebral players who pick things up quickly. Both should have an impact on the defense before the season is over.
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“Really, I just owe to the guys helping me out with the film study and the playbook,’’ Dennis said. “It’s knowing where I should be.
“I feel very comfortable. Everyone in the room, including the coaches, are helping me know what my responsibility is and helping me get to the spot. Even if I have a good play, they still critique me.”
Dennis may not crack the starting lineup this season and will play a big role on special teams. But Lavonte David could be in his final season and Devin White wants a long-term contract, possibly here on elsewhere.
We’re talking about practice, man
Much has been made of the improvement of quarterback Kyle Trask and rightfully so. He outplayed Baker Mayfield in back-to-back practices and has thrown fewer interceptions.
New offensive coordinator Dave Canales is committed to continuing the competition into the preseason.
Taking care of the football is paramount and Mayfield has thrown more interceptions than any other quarterback since entering the league.
But in the words of Allen Iverson, “We’re talking about practice, man. What are we talking about? We’re talking about practice.”
Of course, it’s important, especially with Mayfield’s lack of ball security throughout his career. But it’s also the time quarterbacks try to test the boundaries to see what throws they can or can’t get away with.
One national radio host, Colin Cowherd, suggested Mayfield should quit and become a broadcaster if he can’t win the job over Trask. Cowherd has always been critical of Mayfield.
“He’s too big to be a backup, so if he losses to Kyle Trask, he’s still got a chip on his shoulder a mile long,” Cowherd said. “Last week he was quoted saying in front of a camera, ‘I don’t need anybody to tell me how to play quarterback.’ It’s who he is. He’s making about $4 million a year. But to be a top analyst at a football network, he’d make about $2 (million) or $2.5. And the truth is, you don’t want to become a punch line. ... I would say if you can’t beat out Kyle, I’d retire. I’d call the networks. Take a year off. Practice. Go to these companies, say, ‘I want to get good at this,’ and go be a rock star.”
A bigger test will come in the preseason when opposing defenses can rock the quarterback.
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