Twenty years in the National Football League is good for something. In Bucs quarterback Tom Brady's case, it's good for adapting to a brand new team amid very unconventional circumstances. He was handed the Bucs' playbook following his signing with the team in March and quite literally ran with it, wasting no time in getting to know the ins and outs of his new offense and killing two birds with one stone as he rallied his teammates around him for player-led offseason workouts.
These 'practices' were entirely on Brady's own accord, as the NFL prohibits any coaching or instruction during that time period. It was a 'hey, here's the playbook, do what you want with it' type of situation. But Brady made the most of it from what Head Coach Bruce Arians, who met with the media via Zoom on Tuesday, heard.
"We really had no communication, we couldn't film it or anything like that," Arians said of the workouts. "I didn't really have a lot of conversation with Tom other than that there was a good turnout and they were getting a lot of things done. It was a good team-building experience. It doesn't replace practice but it's the closest thing you can get."
View photos of Bucs quarterbacks and rookies reporting to training camp.
The Bucs, and every other team across the league, missed more than 400 reps worth of Organized Team Activities, or OTAs, which didn't take place this offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic. It can be hard for any new player to get adjusted to their new team, with young players especially being at the biggest disadvantage as they try to get themselves acclimated to playing at the next level.
Enter Brady's two decades of experience.
"He's way ahead of the curve," said Arians of how Brady has grasped his and Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich's system. "He's a very bright guy. The terminology was the big thing and as we now get together, starting tomorrow, we'll start to collaborate a little bit more. I think he's in a great spot right now as far as that goes."
That's been the key word since getting Brady this offseason. Arians has always approached his quarterbacks with an open mind, understanding that if they are running plays they like, the entire offense benefits. It's a total collaborative effort. Arians isn't trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. But especially with a shortened offseason and unorthodox preseason, there may be more bending on both sides to arrive at a final product.
"It's a dual thing," said Arians. "Him learning what we do. Me learning what he likes. Meeting in the middle and doing a lot of different things but I'm not going to ask the other 21 guys to learn something new when they've already had a good year and good experiences in the offense."
The Bucs offense finished with the most yards through the air of any team in 2019 behind two 1,000-yard receivers in both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. They had the third-most offensive yards of any kind and they've only bolstered their offensive arsenal this offseason. They added Brady's favorite target for nine of his years in New England in tight end Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to join him with the Bucs. That should elevate the play of two other productive tight ends in O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, too. Simply put, Brady will have perhaps his strongest supporting cast ever around him – and in an extraordinarily potent offense at that.
It's enough to get anyone excited but the transition has just begun as the Bucs begin quarterback school this week. It'll give Brady his first chance to get on the Bucs' practice fields at AdventHealth Training Center and alleviate his chief concern heading into an uncertain 2020 season.
"I think his big concern is having no live reps up until now," said Arians of Brady. "Missing those reps in the spring, especially against a defense like ours where he's going to see multiple looks all the time.
"And just getting into game shape and getting that reaction time down. I think he'll know where to go with the ball. It's just a matter of us putting him in enough situations – full speed situations – that he's ready to play a game."