Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Big Easy Not Being Taken Lightly by Bucs | Carmen Catches Up

The 2020 season begins in the Bayou and the Buccaneers know there’s a good team waiting for them there.

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-"Ahoy, Brady!" says NFL.com's Judy Battista, who wrote a feature for the league site that includes in-depth conversations with both Bucs Quarterbacks Coach Clyde Christensen and Head Coach Bruce Arians about the arrival of Tom Brady.

-Yesterday was a bonus practice but Wednesday made that game-week feeling really sink in. The Buccaneers even released their first injury report of the season, which is as good a barometer as any that meaningful football is close. As such, conversations in media availability have now shifted to this week's opponent: The New Orleans Saints.

They're a familiar rival and the one that perhaps most stands in the way of the Bucs and an NFC South title. Last season, Tampa Bay dropped both their contests to the eventual division winners and the team – nor its coach – has forgotten it.

"I would think we'd be a heck of a lot more prepared," said Arians of Sunday's matchup. "We got to see ourselves do it against them on film. Down there [in New Orleans] we busted coverage and gave them an easy touchdown. Carlton [Davis] was ejected for a hit in the flat. There were a lot of things – we recovered a fumble on a punt and we don't get it. Again, it was more us inflicting wounds upon ourselves. Here it was strictly the turnovers quick and we didn't get off to a fast start defensively. We let them take it and go down the field. Those things are all easily correctable and they see themselves do it, so let's see if they can fix it."

A fast start defensively would be especially key. The continuity of the Bucs' defensive personnel and the scheme itself should pay dividends going into 2020. It seems every player on that side of the ball has talked about how much more comfortable they feel in Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles' system in their second year. And defensive tackle Vita Vea is no exception.

"For sure," Vea said about being more comfortable in the defense with a year of experience in it under his belt. "I think that definitely helped a lot coming in under the same scheme as last year because you begin to learn more than what you knew last year. Obviously, you have to learn about your position, so I think that came second nature to the majority of us. I think when that happens, you begin to learn more about the defense itself, the game, the offense and all that."

A defensive player who will play a major role without the benefit of a year of experience is rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. In fact, he's the only defensive player listed as a starter on the Bucs' unofficial depth chart that wasn't here last year to lay the foundation. But the coaches seem to have confidence in him anyway, after an extraordinary camp from the young player.

 "It was Coach [Todd] Bowles," Winfield said of who gave him the news he would be starting on Sunday. "He kind of just came up to me after a practice and said it was my spot, so go out and own it. I was just excited. I've put in a lot of work over the camp to get the starting position and now my goal is just to be the best I can be for my team."

And while playing in the league may be new to him, the NFL life isn't. His father, Antoine Winfield Sr., played 14 years as a member of both the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills. The former Pro Bowl corner had quite a few games against the opponent Junior is now about to play.

 "It's funny because I remember watching those games, like him playing against New Orleans," Winfield said. "It's just so surreal to actually be here. It's already coming up upon us on Sunday, so it's going to be game time. I'm just really excited to go out there and play."

And Bucs fans are super excited for the team to do just that. After a splashy offseason that included the signings of Brady and his former teammate, tight end Rob Gronkowski, all eyes are on Tampa Bay this year – and not just because they're hosting Super Bowl LV in February.

"That's just all hype," said Gronkowski of the attention. "That's a lot of noise outside of the building and I would just say we've got to take it one day at a time, one week at a time, one game at a time. That's what it's all about. You've got to play a 16-game season. You've got to be good week in and week out, and the way to do that is just take one step at a time [and] one game at a time. Never look ahead of yourself. Never look ahead of a practice, always try to do your best every single day and just stay in the present and do what you can do that day. Like I said, take it one game at a time and that's all you can really do."

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