The Buccaneers are the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium but other than the making history part, what does that mean? How does that affect the team and is it really a type of homefield advantage?
While the experts aren't subscribing to that judging off their picks for this weekend, one guy who does see the benefits – and would know – is Bucs Head Coach Bruce Arians.
"It's really, really amazing to just be in our facility, be in our locker room, on the practice field, same drive to work every single day," Arians said about the preparation so far. "Being able to stay in that routine has been critical because normally you're jumping on a plane. You're either at another team's facility or at a college facility and getting accustomed to that the first few days with different meeting rooms. That's been huge for us as it has been for Kansas City, staying there until Saturday. Just staying in our routines."
And athletes and coaches are nothing if not creatures of habit. But when the day itself comes, what will be on the minds of the players themselves? More specifically, what will be on the mind of Bucs quarterback Tom Brady?
"It's a slow build I think for this game," said Brady. "It's two weeks of prep. You feel like the physical stuff is pretty much done at this point. At this point it's just going through in your head different situations, scenarios, all your different calls that you have, just thinking about how they're going to play us. Again, I think that's where the mental prep [comes in], you really can't leave any stone unturned at this point. We've got Friday, Saturday, Sunday, just over three days left in the season. Seventy-two hours-plus and we've got to use it all and use it to the maximum. This is a game that's really going to challenge us. This team is a really tough team to beat. They haven't been beaten in a long time. They've got a great offense, a great defense, really well-coached, very good on special teams. Just try to chill on Sunday. Get your body mentally, physically in a good place to go out there and compete and get ready for a great game. It's a long game, it's a hard game. It's a long day, but you've got to be ready when the ball is kicked off and we're going to be challenge. They're going to challenge us and we've got to go answer the challenge."
Helping to answer that challenge will be Brady's offensive line, who are going into the game of all games with confidence in their preparation and togetherness. This is despite the fact that they will be missing right guard Alex Cappa, who has spent the season with a line that had been very consistent throughout the year. But backup guard Aaron Stinnie has stepped in beautifully for Cappa, starting in the Divisional Round against the Saints. The line really hasn't skipped a beat.
"I think with that it's just guys are coming to work every day preparing like they are going to be the starter," said center Ryan Jensen of the seamless transition. "Unfortunately, when 'Cap' (Alex Cappa) got hurt, Aaron [Stinnie] came in and stepped up huge. That's all based on preparation and being ready for that opportunity. I feel like as an offensive line as a whole, we have attacked every day with that same kind of attitude and preparation. For Stinnie to be able to come in and play the way he is playing is a testament of how hard he works and how hard this line works on a daily basis."
The work they put in sets the tone for the rest of the offense as far as they're concerned. And the line is putting all the responsibility on their shoulders for how the team performs.
"I think as a group, for us, we feel if we play at a high level, we'll be able to get what we want done," said left guard Ali Marpet. "We'll be able to put our team in a good position to win. It's also a group, I feel like, that we have each other's back. We love playing with each other. There's an excitement and an enthusiasm around the game so that definitely helps out and it's just fun playing with these guys."
"We've been playing great," continued left tackle Donovan Smith. "It's something that we've been working on since training camp, obviously. We talk about it every day, anytime we go out on the field, in between those lines we want to establish who we are. At the beginning we were just tying things together, but I feel like we're in a good groove, a good flow."
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