HEAD COACH BRUCE ARIANS
(On how TE Rob Gronkowski is moving compared to when he last played)
"No similarities at all. He looks like he was five or six years ago before all the injuries. The back surgeries have healed, so he had a year of healing. He looks to me like he was five or six years ago."
(On the difficulty balancing tackling while not getting anyone hurt)
"When we're in a non-tackling period, I don't want any tackling. When we're tackling, we tackle. The last thing you do is grab a jersey. I can see on film whether you would have made the tackle or not, so we'll see how it plays out. There's a certain practice etiquette you have to follow and the young guys struggle with that."
(On seeing RB T.J. Logan leave practice early after getting tackled)
"[That was] real hard. You never want to see a player down, especially a guy who was having as good of a camp as he was having. We'll wait and see what happens with it – still too early to tell. We'll wait and see."
(On managing how much Gronkowski will play)
"We'll play every game to win – whatever that takes. We can't worry about December in September. The load – we've got a lot of guys, so we can manage that as far as every game. We're going to play every single game to win, so if that means he plays 50 plays or 30 plays, we'll see."
(On what about Gronkowski stands out to him)
"All of the above, and he doesn't have a gigantic elbow brace on. He's moving, he's running fast again. He's got great body control. The stiffness I saw at the end of his career with all the injuries looks like it's gone."
(On what the sports science staff can do to maintain Gronkowski's health and recovery)
"That part's easy. All those have healed – right now, it's just hydration, keeping your body in great shape – and he is in great shape. It's nothing to do with those past injuries as far as sports science – it's just muscle injuries and things like that we can prevent. Football is football."
(On DL Vita Vea's performance in training camp and if he'll need to wear the club on his hand in the regular season)
"I think he's having a hell of a camp. He's a load in the middle and he can run and chase. That [club] will come off. It's just protective right now [but] it will come off soon."
(On if he will bring officials in to referee practices as the regular season gets closer)
"Well, we'd have to take seven people off of Tier 2 to get them out there on the field, and they'd have to get tested every single day. That's one of the operational problems. Hopefully we'll have some NFL people when we scrimmage and get some people in here, but getting them on Tier 2 is tough to do."
(On getting WR Tyler Johnson back on the field and on how much Johnson has missed while he was away)
"He made a nice play today on an inside-out route. It's hard to say because it's the first I've seen him – he's missed a ton. You throw out all the spring and almost all the camp, he's lightyears behind."
(On if rookie S Antoine Winfield Jr. could be on the field at the same time as S Mike Edwards and S Jordan Whitehead)
"There's no doubt. He's a player that could be dime, nickel, back end safety – his versatility allows him to be with any group of guys we want out there, whether it's three corners, three safeties, whatever package we want to put in, he could be in there."
(On the development he's seen from Edwards and Whitehead)
"Jordan looks good – he's playing the pass better, he's a little bit stronger to a point. You know he's going to throw his face in the fan – no question about that – so the weight should help him there. I like Mike's progress. He's getting his hands on balls, breaking on balls, getting out to centerfield [and] covering a lot of ground, and he's doing a better job tackling when we're tackling."
(On the benefits of the tight end depth)
"I think that's one of the things as far as keeping guys fresh, utilizing each skillset as much as we can and finding matchups for each one of them in a game plan. It's a fun toy to have."
(On WR Mike Evans and WR Chris Godwin being more focused on team goals than individual success)
"Can't say enough about those guys. Selflessness is a huge thing when it comes to offensive players – there's only one ball. Somebody's going to have their lip poked out on Monday because nobody's going to get enough of [the ball]. But, this group is selfless and I can't say enough about their personalities that way."
(On RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn and his role in the special teams unit)
"He's learning the ropes. He hasn't played much special teams, but he's tough, he can run. His pass protection – he's learning a little bit about the size of these guys coming. He's got great vision as a runner – that part of it, there's no problem. It's the playing football at this level [that] he's catching up to."
(On the scrimmages the team is planning at Raymond James Stadium)
"The scoreboards will be on, we'll do all that kind of stuff – instant replay. Make sure the stadium's operational for the first home game and get a good scrimmage in. Live kicking, offense versus defense – kind of like we just did for the last 20 plays of practice [but] we'll do a full game's worth."
(On the impact QB Tom Brady's presence has had on TE O.J. Howard's ability and accountability)
"O.J. has always been accountable. I don't think that's ever been a problem. He's just growing as a player. When you have one of the best to ever play help you become a better player, you listen. Sometimes those voices are better than coaches' voices. That work they put together out at Berkeley [Preparatory School] was huge for both of them. I think O.J. is playing at an extremely high level right now and [I] would not expect to see any kind of drop off – only continued growth."
(On if the team is going to create a bubble for players and staff)
"We already have. We've got a hotel that's quarantined that they can stay at – they can stay at their house. I think the biggest thing is if you have children and they start going to school, making sure that the testing every day is still good. We'll be quarantined on the road, so I don't know what else you could do as a bubble."
TIGHT ENDS COACH RICK CHRISTOPHEL
(On what stands out to him about TE Rob Gronkowski)
"I think the most amazing thing about Gronk is that as big of a guy he is, he's athletic. He can do a lot of things. He's got some quick-twitch movements. Everything that you've seen being in the league and seeing him play, getting to watch him on film, getting to watch him on television – I think the most important thing is it matters to him. He loves it. He has fun. He loves to play the game and he has fun out there, but it matters to him. When he makes a mistake, it hurts him and like Tom [Brady], he wants to win. I think that's a big component of what makes his personality."
(On if Gronkowski's personality has overshadowed his work ethic in terms of his public perception)
"No doubt about it. I know he's portrayed as one of those guys that likes to go out and have a lot of fun and all that stuff, but when he's in the facility and when he's in between the lines, he is business. He knows that he has to get the job done and he's a professional. He's learning a new offense just like a couple other guys are. He's put his time in and that's what I respect about him. He wants to go out there and be good, be even better."
(On having versatile tight ends that can block and produce in the passing game)
"Especially in our offense, we ask our tight ends to do a lot of different things. They've got to be involved in every part of the game. They've got to be run blockers. They've got to be pass protectors. They have to run good routes. They've got to know different coverages. They've got to know when they're hot, when they're not – all of those things rolled into one. Not only do they have to be athletic, but they have to be pretty sharp. We're fortunate to have those kind of guys right there. You talk about having some fun, we're having some fun right now trying to figure how we're going to do this with this guy and how we're going to do that with the other guy. It's going to be fun because when you have those guys on the outside like we have too, and then the guy behind the center – we've got some chances to do some things offensively that are going to be fun."
(On helping TE O.J. Howard improve his footwork)
"When we had our virtual Zoom meetings, we talked about that a lot. We just have to keep working on it. We work on it a lot with the tackles, with our footwork and doing the things we're supposed to do. The first couple of days he'll do well and then he'll fall back in that little lapse where his footwork gets a little sloppy. So, we continually talk about it and watch it on film because he's a strong guy. If he does his footwork and technique right, he's going to be very adequate and very good at the point of attack."
(On the development of O.J. Howard's route running)
"I think compared to last year, right now he's probably a lot better than what he was. He's starting to learn to run routes – how to get out of routes. And I think being around Tom [Brady] has helped him too because Tom's given him some pointers and helped him doing some things. I've been in the business so long, [but] I don't have all the answers. I know there are other guys that know how to do things better, and that's only to help him. And I think once he keeps doing those things, and he sees those things, it's going to help him become an even better player than what he is right now."
SAFETY MIKE EDWARDS
(On the competition at safety)
"It makes everybody better. Antoine [Winfield Jr.] is a real good player. He came in and he's real versatile. Andrew Adams, he's our vet in our room. He brings enthusiasm and can play all different safety spots. Jordan Whitehead, he's the vocal guy in our room. He's a hard hitter – that's my boy right there. We've got a lot of depth in our secondary, so we all can play different safety spots and we're just flying around, getting all the guys on the defense lined up and just playing football."
(On how QB Tom Brady's ability to look off safeties is helping him prepare for the season)
"It's very different. He's great at that. Most of the time I'm playing deep-middle or high safety and he likes to look me off a lot. It's hard because I'm like, 'Oh, he's going over there,' so I jump over there and it's a post [route] right behind me, so it's tough. I try to just lock into when he has his hands on the ball and is throwing the ball to break on that. I try to get a jump on him, but he's real good at that. He can place the ball right where it needs to be and it's hard to pick him off, but I'm trying to get as many as I can."
(On if the safeties have placed an emphasis on getting interceptions and creating turnovers)
"Yeah, for sure. We're trying to turn those pass deflections into interceptions, trying to get our eyes on the quarterback and play the football. I just feel like we need to make more plays on the back end. We didn't have many picks as a whole secondary. I feel like we can definitely get more this year. [We are] just playing fast and we've got a good defense where we've got eyes on the quarterback, [we are] breaking on him and just making plays."
(On if the communication in the secondary has improved this season)
"Yeah, we are definitely more comfortable this year. We've got pretty much all the guys back that we had and added a few more. We are kind of jelling now [and] we've got more chemistry, so [we are] definitely harping on communicating better getting people lined up in the right spots. Especially in the secondary, we've got to communicate a lot to the linebackers, D-linemen, the corners and everybody on the whole team. We get everybody lined up and Coach [Todd] Bowles and the safeties kind of harp on communicating and getting people lined up."
TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI
(On if the Florida heat and humidity has made him question his return to football and how he's felt after the first couple of practices)
"Definitely no regrets. I'm here, I'm supposed to be here – I feel like I'm supposed to be here. That's definitely in the past and I'm here to play football now. I'm glad to be here. Going out there and just playing ball – it feels good. Let me tell you, the first couple practices, it definitely felt weird. The game was really fast when I first got out there again. The defense felt really fast. As time goes on and as the days go on, I feel better about myself being out there. My confidence keeps going up, the game is slowing down, I'm starting to pick up the offense more. But overall, it's going good. I have so much more to work on and so much more to improve on, but I am really glad to be here."
(On if QB Tom Brady looks refreshed)
"The way Tom works is never going to change – he just loves the game of football. But I can definitely say he has embraced this new challenge and for myself, it's definitely a challenge too. To go out there, to learn a whole new system, a whole new organization, a whole new team is definitely a challenge and you have to embrace it. I can't speak for Tom, but I can say, from my eyes just looking at him, he looks refreshed. He looks ready to go, he looks ready to play every single day and he's motivated every day. It's nice to see. The way he goes out there and works, it gets everyone better all around – from the offensive linemen, to the wide receivers, to the running backs, to the tight ends, to the defense – it doesn't matter what position. It just elevates everyone's game when he's out there participating. The love for this game is never going to change and it hasn't changed one bit. He brings it every time no matter where he's at."
(On the advice he has for the pass catchers on playing with Brady)
"I would say there's one thing that I would give a pointer to, and that's to never give up. Never give up on your route and always be ready even if you're covered. If everyone's covered, Tom's going to find an area to throw the ball to where you can go up and make the play and not have the defender make a play. So, always be ready for the ball in any place where you can make a catch. Never give up is basically what I'd say. What I do actually tell the receivers is to always be ready and keep going hard because you never know where the ball is going to be because Tom can place it like no other."
(On the difference in training camp while in Tampa Bay's climate as opposed to New England's)
"I would say it's different because of the humidity. The humidity is definitely a game-changer and if you're not used to the humidity, it can definitely take an effect on your performance [and] your hydration. When you're dehydrated, when you're overheated, you may not be able to produce how you want to produce. I would definitely say that I'm adapting. I'm adjusting, I'm out there – not to the full potential of where I want to be – but definitely adapting to the humidity is a challenge. You're sweating, your gloves are sweating. Your shoes halfway through the practice – it's like you jumped in a pool. It's all squishy – every time you take a step it's squishing so it's kind of harder to make a cut when your shoes are just full of water. Your pants, your shirt – you're just drenched in water. That's a challenge. It makes practice harder, but I knew that was going to be the case. I remember a few times during the humidity days practicing up north or coming down here – because we practiced vs. Tampa before in my career – and just feeling the humidity. That's what happens. I knew that was going to be a challenge and I've accepted that challenge. You just laugh about it when you're out there on the field. You laugh that your shoes are squishing and that you're breathing extra hard. But, it's a great challenge because it's going to make you better in the long run big time."
(On Brady's arm strength and if it feels like their QB-TE connection is back again)
"His arm looks like [when] I first got into the league. I think he was 32 or 33 years old and his arm may actually be stronger than when he was 33 when I first got to the league, which is incredible. I would say myself going out there, I was a little rusty getting used to the game of football. I still have a lot of ways to go, I have a lot of improvements to still make from my conditioning, to knowing the playbook, to just getting a feel of the football game. The first couple of practices were a little weird. It was fast, but now it's starting to get to the point where we left off about 18 months ago and that's a good feeling. It's a good feeling when we connect with a pass and all that good stuff. That's the feeling it's starting to be and that's the feeling we're trying to get to every single day."
SAFETY JORDAN WHITEHEAD
(On his injury that ended his 2019 season and his excitement for the upcoming season)
"Last year toward the end of the season, the defense, the young DBs – we were getting in a roll. I was starting to find a little hitch on my step in learning how to blitz and learning the defense more than I did during the beginning of the season. Coach [Todd] Bowles – meeting with him – he knows the whole defense and once you meet with him, he'll break it down and he'll tell you how to fake your blitzes, stuff like that. That was the biggest thing. It was frustrating [with] that injury. I felt like I was just getting started and the defense as a whole was just getting started, so missing those last two games definitely hurt because I know it would've rolled over into this year. But, I got to watch from the sidelines the last two games [and] reflect the whole offseason. These guys are hungry – I'm more hungry than ever right now. We've got a whole new start this year. We've got the same players and we need to start building. We can't start slow this year; we have to start fast."
(On his offseason workouts and what he focused on)
"In this defense I play a lot of man on the tight end. My hips have to be loose just like a corner's hips to cover. My cousin was down here – Maurice – this offseason during the quarantine and he put me to work. A lot of ball skills, a lot of footwork. He got me in good shape and that was something I needed to work on was my hips. Like you said, the tackling is going to come. I love the weight room, so strength is going to be there. Toughness is a mental thing, so I'm always going to have that. Definitely my biggest focus was working on my feet and being able to cover more, playing the middle of the field. That was definitely something I worked on and I definitely improved at it."
(On S Antoine Winfield Jr. and if he's around the ball a lot)
"Yes, he is. That man is smart. You could tell his dad played and he's been learning from him because just the way he handles himself, the way he carries himself in the building – he's all about business. He asks us questions, he makes his mistakes like everybody else, but he makes a lot of plays. That's the biggest thing from him – he's learning quick. He's getting thrown around and I just love to see him out there because he's definitely a great athlete."