Tom Brady’s Bucs debut is finally here

Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady during an NFL football training camp practice Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Quarterback Tom Brady says he already has the mental ability to focus on big moments and big games. But for all the future hall of famer has accomplished, Sunday’s opening game as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will feel different.

For the first time in his 20-year NFL career, Brady will suit up for a team other than the New England Patriots. The preparation, during a pandemic that wiped out any sense of a normal off-season, has made Brady’s comfort zone even more difficult to find.

His preparation, however, is as good as ever. Now, he will line up behind a mostly intact offensive line from last season as well as a cast of offensive weapons that are the envy of the NFL heading into the 2020 campaign.

“We have live contact, live football, real results and that’s something I haven’t done in nine months,” Brady said. “I think the first quarter of the game is probably going to be new for everybody. Just getting out feet wet and understanding the speed of the game will be a little faster than what it’s been in practice. Hopefully I can recall some of the things I’ve done over a period of time and go out there and try to play a real solid football game against a great football team.”

The first question for Brady’s new team is the status of wide receiver Mike Evans who missed the week of practice with a sore hamstring. Evans was originally listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game but was upgraded to questionable before the team departed for New Orleans on Saturday.

The surrounding cast is still elite with wide receiver Chris Godwin and tight ends O.J. Howard, Rob Gronkowski and Cam Brate. Add running backs Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy to the mix and the Bucs can put big name after big name on the field for depth and the search for a consistent “hot hand.”

Without a preseason, the challenge was difficult for Bucs coaches to assess exactly where the team stands offensively. Head coach Bruce Arians is confident, however, that Brady’s leadership will continue to rub off on teammates, the way it has all summer.

The Bucs hope to be ready for any situation the game hands them.

“Offensively, it’s just a matter of getting on the same page,” Arians said. “They have all the confidence in the world because everybody believes in each other. They have put the work in, so we should have plenty of swagger when we step out on the field.”

For Brady, it is matchup number six in his career against Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who has a 3-2 edge in those contests. Brady also knows that it takes a clean game to have a chance to beat a Brees-led Saints team.

“It’s a big challenge because there’s no margin of error when you play a great football team,” Brady said. “The Saints have proven themselves to be that for a long time. They [have] a very good offense, a great defense, they’re very well prepared [and] they don’t beat themselves. We’re going to have to go and play a great football game.”

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