On Tuesday morning, the Super Bowl LV champions got back on the field together as a full team for the first time since the confetti fell on Raymond James Stadium. As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers began a three-day mandatory mini-camp at the AdventHealth Training Center, Head Coach Bruce Arians looked for a tell-tale indicator that would let him know if the team's title defense was off to a good start.
He didn't see it…and that's a good thing.
What Arians was on the alert for was any sign of complacency among the champions, especially with the veterans returning to the mix for the first time.
"That was the first thing I was looking for today and I didn't see any," said Arians. "Our guys know how to work, so I really don't have to say anything. If it's on offense, you're probably getting your ass chewed out by [Tom] Brady. If it's on defense, Lavonte [David]'s probably chewing your ass out so I won't have to say anything."
What Arians did see was perfect attendance, with Brady, David and the rest of the team's 89 rostered players on the field. Of those 89, 83 were able to practice. In recent weeks, most of the team's young players have been taking part in OTAs at team headquarters while Brady and a collection of veterans have worked out on their own. Arians said return of the veterans brought a new energy level and a reminder of the work-ethic standard the team set a year ago. The result was a very useful first practice on Tuesday.
"Really, really pleased with the speed and quickness and the retention of practice, obviously," said Arians. "We didn't even meet before we went out for practice. I wanted to see how much we learned on the Zoom calls and it was impressive. I thought the quarterbacks hit some big-time audibles that we made and played correctly. And defensively, [we did] extremely well on our adjustments and coverages. So it was good, good spirit."
View the top photos from the Bucs first day of mandatory mini-camp.
Defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh was one of those six who watched from the sideline, in his case due to a wrist injury, but he was pleased with what he witnessed. He described the current offseason as one full of "trials and tribulations" regarding how the NFL's offseason program should be shaped but felt it was important for the veterans to make a strong showing this week.
"That doesn't mean that we can't come prepared and have great energy and execution on the football field when it is time to go to work," said Suh. "This is that time to go to work, and it's most important for us to be prepared and not have a lag, because that only proves that things shouldn't be the way they are. This is where veterans and guys as ourselves that know how to take care of business can come in and step into really live practice and be prepared and execute at a high level, have great tempo, great energy and then go from there."
As such, despite a largely disjointed offseason, the Buccaneers hit the traditional end-of-the-program mini-camp on Tuesday feeling as if they had maintained their momentum from last season.
"It just kind of felt like we had a couple-week break," said wide receiver Chris Godwin. "It feels like we were just here not too long ago. I think that's one of the dope things about having everybody returning – there are so many familiar faces and we're just kind of picking up where we left off."
Brady was able to do that despite offseason knee surgery that had Arians openly wondering if he would give the veteran quarterback many reps in this week's camp. After hearing encouraging words from both Brady and the team's doctors about the quarterback's progress, Arians let him take part in every drill except blitz period. Asked what impressed him most about Brady's practice today, Arians had a brief response: "[He] went full speed."
In addition to Brady, the Buccaneers also had rookie outside linebacker Joe Tryon on the field for the first time. The team's first-round draft pick in April, Tryon sat out rookie mini-camp and OTAs due to a minor knee scope he had a few weeks before the draft.
"Yeah, he's full-speed now and he looked really, really good," said Arians of the young edge rusher. "He's obviously everything we thought he was. Obviously we'll learn more in pads. But he's slippery in shorts and a lot of guys aren't. He showed some really good skillset."
Arians also had a positive prognosis for Suh and the other five players who were unable to take part in Tuesday's workout. None appear to have an issue that will linger into training camp, which starts in about six weeks.
Arians on Suh: "Yeah, his wrist, he's not ready to go yet. He doesn't need to practice."
On tight end O.J. Howard, who suffered an Achilles tendon injury last October: "O.J. is really close. And again, we're going to be cautious with him, but he's not far away."
On rookie WR Jaelon Darden, who was out Tuesday after participating in all the OTAs: "He tweaked…very minor tweaked hamstring. He's never had a hamstring problem so I'm making sure we don't have any more. I might let him go Thursday; we'll just wait and see."
On wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is returning from a recent knee procedure: "Yeah, he's probably got two more weeks. He doesn't need to be rushed either."
On safety Jordan Whitehead, who underwent shoulder surgery after the Super Bowl: "He's a little further off. He's a little further off, but he'll be fine by camp. None of those guys will have any problem for training camp."
Wide receiver John Franklin, the sixth player held out on Tuesday, was not discussed.