-The 2020 Buccaneers took to the Raymond James Stadium field for the very first time Friday morning. In an effort to mix up what has become a little bit of a monotonous training camp, the Bucs switched locales to get a bit more of that game day atmosphere. The cannons fired. The scoreboards lit up. And crowd noise was piped in.
It was the first time we got to see the orchestra of Head Coach Bruce Arians, Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich and quarterback Tom Brady work in concert with one another in a game-planning situation. Brady looked completely comfortable as the conductor and Arians said as much following the scrimmage.
"I thought Tom was very, very efficient," said Arians of Brady. "Good job of leadership – I think when you get the first long drive of the year, guys start dragging. He got their [butts] in the huddle and got them rolling and keeping under the 25 second and 40 second clock pretty good – we weren't close at all. He was commanding that pretty good, and overall, I thought he had a hell of a day. Overall, I was pretty pleased. I think that [opening] drive and a couple other drives showed that we're not quite in game shape coming out of it. The field was very soft and mushy – we're used to a hard, fast surface over here on the practice [field], so it was a little different feel, too."
Arians assessed the other side of the ball, too. The first-team defense went up against the second-team offense and vice versa. And it looked like it from the defensive perspective. In fact, the first-team defense seemed to be almost too efficient for their own good.
"I wish we could have gotten a few more snaps in, but I didn't want to force it," said Arians. "I sent them back out once on a drive where there was a three-and-out to try and get them more conditioned, also. I thought they were outstanding."
Brady did well against the second-team defense despite operating in a new offense for the first time in nearly two decades. He also welcomed the idea of moving the locations as a way to get used to his new home a little bit more.
"I love the idea of practicing in the stadium," said Brady. "You get the proportions, you envision plays that you make in practice happening in the game. For example, you throw a touchdown in the corner of the end zone [in practice], [then] you're on the first [or] second drive of the game and you're going toward that end zone and coach calls that play. I remember a lot of practice touchdowns in end zones in the stadium. I think we got to the point where the stadium wasn't that big of a deal. It was kind of like another great place for us to go perform. Then you add the crowd in and that's what makes the real excitement, the energy and so forth. I really think there's a value of going in there, feeling it out, seeing where the sun hits. [For a] 1 o'clock game, which side do we want to be on if we're kicking off [or] if we're receiving the ball, which routes you can throw into the sun. All those things are really important any time you are getting accustomed to a stadium. When it becomes your own stadium, you have more knowledge about your stadium than any other team, which hopefully you can use to your advantage."
It wasn't just Brady's first time in the stadium as a Buccaneer. In addition to veterans like tight end Rob Gronkowski and LeSean McCoy on offense, there were also the rookies, like first-round pick Tristan Wirfs. The right tackle has played in the stadium once before, though. When he was in college, Iowa played Minnesota in the Outback Bowl at the start of this year. But Wirfs has had to adjust to being a pro now and he's had to do it at a faster pace than most, both due to the current COVID-19 climate and being expected to start this coming season. It turns out though, that the key for him was actually slowing down.
"I think settling down a little bit," Wirfs said about what he's learned most this camp. "I think the first day or two in pads I was all antsy, seeing everything. I think just slowing down and focusing in on the little things. I'd say that's the biggest area where I feel I've progressed."