The first day of school comes early in the NFL as veterans reported for training camp on Saturday. The very next morning, the 2021 Buccaneers took to the field for their first training camp practice of the year and AdventHealth Training Center was buzzing with activity after what seemed like an eternity.
Not only were the players back – but so were the fans. It was a sight we haven't seen since August of 2019 and according to players and coaches alike, it was a welcomed sight. Season Pass Members were on hand on Sunday morning to watch Tampa Bay kick things off. For many, it was the first opportunity to see a few key additions made last offseason up close. That is of course, one Tom Brady.
As practice officially started, Brady made his way over to the near field and with him came thunderous cheers and applause as the team began drills. Those cheers and applause wouldn't stop as each pass or perhaps evasive maneuver was met with audible appreciation.
Here are a few more things that stood out from the day:
-Rookie third-round pick Robert Hainsey looks like he's made improvement even from OTAs, taking snaps at second-team center. It seems working with former center A.Q. Shipley is starting to pay off for the young lineman out of Notre Dame.
-The very first pass from Brady to Rob Gronkowski in warmups got cheers from the crowd. In the first team period, Gronk even caught a pass on a route that looked eerily similar to his first touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. It was a little bit of déjà vu, despite the fact that according to Head Coach Bruce Arians and a lot of his players, the Super Bowl is in the past. They're starting fresh this year.
-It was good to see rookie first-round pick Joe Tryon as a full participant with his outside linebackers group. Tryon missed rookie minicamp after having a minor knee procedure and was a limited participant in mandatory mini-camp in June. It seems like he's ready to go for 2021 and it'll be interesting to see how he fits into a rotation that includes Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett and Anthony Nelson already.
-Arians again deployed his signature two practice field method for camp. It meant that Bucs fans were treated to the so-called ones vs. ones, meaning offensive and defensive starters going against each other. During the season, the offense goes against the scout team defense acting as that week's opponent and vice versa. This time of year is the only time that you get to see this level of competition going head to head.
-Brady, who very clearly now has a full command of this offense, looked comfortable as ever and was spreading the ball out to all kinds of receivers. Not only did players like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Gronkowski see passes thrown their way, but so did receivers Tyler Johnson and rookie Jaelon Darden. Tight end Tanner Hudson also saw an increased role with Cam Brate on the PUP list and O.J. Howard still limited as he recovers from an Achilles rupture last season.
View some of the photos from Buccaneers Training Camp practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.
-Part of the reason for Brady's spreading the ball around was that the offense was rotating their personnel almost as much as the defense typically does. We saw a mix of guys getting first team reps with Brady along with second team reps from backup Blaine Gabbert.
-The defense was not shy about getting their hands on the football today. In fact, they recorded two batted down passes in a row, with JPP getting the second at the line of scrimmage, to the oohs of the crowd.
-Another batted down pass came from safety Mike Edwards as he came screaming downhill to swat down a ball at the line of scrimmage about halfway through practice.
-Another tipped ball – this one in the middle of the field – resulted in an almost-interception for cornerback Carlton Davis. It just bounced out of his hands but was an excellent effort by the secondary as a whole.
-Even when receivers made catches, the defense never gave up on the ball. In fact, cornerback Nate Brooks ended up stripping the ball after Darden caught a pass from Gabbert, making the whole play look effortless. Brooks was then there to punch the ball clean out of Darden's hands, helping the rookie learn a valuable lesson that the play ain't over til it's over, right?
-The end of practice saw a series of work from rookie quarterback Kyle Trask. As soon as he was handed the ball, there were quite a few cheers from the stands for the University of Florida product. I guess there were a lot of Gators in the stands.