By Bruce Penton
All eyes following the National Football League in 2020 will be focused on TB in TB — that’s Tom Brady in Tampa Bay.
For 20 years, the 43-year-old Brady — undoubtedly the greatest quarterback of all time — was a record-breaking fixture with New England Patriots, but the six-time Super Bowl champion wanted to spread his wings before hitting the retirement rocking chair. He played out his contract with the Patriots, had his agent weigh numerous offers, and finally decided he’d take TB12 to TB, Florida.
Not only were football fans around the world watching with eager anticipation when Brady’s Buccaneers opened the 2020 season this past Sunday in New Orleans, but Bucs fans are already making plans for Super Bowl celebrations in February.
Tampa Bay, under offensive minded head coach Bruce Arians, was already a decent team with unlimited weapons — Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and O.J. Howard are among the top pass catchers in the league — when Brady joined the squad, bringing with him former Patriot Rob Gronkowski, an All-Pro tight end who retired following the 2018 season and lived a rock star lifestyle during his 12-month hiatus. But when Brady joined the Bucs, and Tampa officials expressed an interest in having Gronkowski join his long-time team-mate, he jumped at the chance to return.
With Brady guiding the offence instead of the interception-prone Jameis Winston, the Bucs could be dynamite this year — if there is ‘a year’. COVID-19 lurks everywhere, and while the NFL has taken extreme steps to keep their training facilities, locker rooms and stadiums virus-free, there are no guarantee interruptions, similar to the ones that plagued major league baseball early in its return to play, won’t occur.
“If we stay healthy, if we beat the virus, we’re gonna beat a lot of teams,” Arians told si.com’s MMQB.
Expecting spectacular, championship-style play from a 43-year-old quarterback, however, might be a fool’s game. Fans remember how quickly the skill levels of quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Brett Favre dropped off precipitously as they reached their late 30s. Brady, however, is renowned for his fitness and diet, and the Bucs, who signed Brady to a two-year deal with more than $50 million in guarantees, obviously feel he’s still at the top of his game.
Whether Brady can lead Tampa Bay into the upper echelons of the NFL remains to be seen, but there is no doubt Brady and the Bucs will be must-see viewing — New England excluded — all year.
• Dr. Carlos Del Rio of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, to reporters, on college conferences shutting down their fall seasons: “We have hit the iceberg, and we are making decisions about when we should have the band play.”
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