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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs "Hyper-Focused" on Quarterback Competition as Camp Begins

Now that training camp is here, Jason Licht and the Bucs' brass are going to be analyzing the upcoming battle at quarterback intensely, as both Kyle Trask and Baker Mayfield seek to nail down the starting job


Jason Licht took over as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' general manager in 2014 and, in just his second season, found himself in possession of the first pick in the draft and a quarterback-needy roster. That's an infrequent opportunity for a team architect and, to be sure, Licht surely hopes never to be picking first-overall again.

The Buccaneers used that number-one pick on Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who earned the starting job in Week One of his rookie season and held it for most of the next five years. Winston was succeeded immediately by Tom Brady, who quarterbacked the Bucs for the next three seasons, won a Super Bowl and captured two division titles. Back in 2014, the Buccaneers brought in a Head Coach Lovie Smith favorite, Josh McCown, to be the unquestioned starter.

Now Brady has ridden off into the sunset after the greatest career in NFL history and the Buccaneers are about to enter into the most gripping of all training camp scenarios: a wide-open competition for the starting quarterback job. That's something the franchise hasn't seen in quite a long time, and certainly not during Licht's tenure.

The two competitors for the job are third-year holdover Kyle Trask, a second-round pick in 2021, and free agent acquisition Baker Mayfield, the former first-overall pick in the 2019 draft. Licht emphasized again that the battle really could go either way, and watching it unfold is going to be fascinating stuff for Licht and the Bucs' coaches and personnel pros.

"One thing I'm looking forward to is, this is really the first time since I've been here, and I'm going on Year 10, of a true quarterback competition," said Licht on Tuesday as the Bucs' veteran players reported for camp. "One thing I'm looking forward to is just how hyper-focused we're going to be in those practices here at the beginning of camp for the first few weeks, at least. Just to see who takes the next step forward. People can have in their head, 'Well, it seems like it's for sure going to be this person or it's not going to be this person,' but until we're out there, anything can happen. It's going to be a lot of fun just to really focus on how this is going to play out."

That the QB competition is about to begin for real and will surely take its twists and turns in the next couple weeks is an exciting step forward for the team. Since the arrival of Mayfield and the acknowledgement of the head-to-head battle, the storylines surrounding the two passers have been pretty much the same from week to week. That's about to change.

"It's probably the same things that we've been saying for a long time about Kyle – the inner strength that he has, the inner confidence, nothing is too big for him," said Licht. "He's had to sit and wait for his opportunity his entire football career and has done that now. Nothing seems too big for him, once again. He's made tremendous strides here just this spring from where he was when we first got him. And then with Baker, he's full of energy, he does all the right things, he's working his butt off, he has a little bit of an attraction to him because of the energy that he has out there. But, once again, once the bullets start flying and we start playing, people [and] players gravitate to the player that they think is going to give them the best opportunity to win."

The Bucs have resisted setting any public dates for when the starter will be named, but Head Coach Todd Bowles is heading into camp with the plan fully laid out in his mind, even if he's not planning to make it public just yet.

"Like I said, I've got a timetable in my head," said Bowles. "Obviously, it will be [decided in the] preseason – I'm not going to make it in the regular season. I have a timeline in my head, I've got my notes down. We talked as an offensive staff and as a coaching staff and we understand where we're going. They know where I'm at and they know how I feel, so we'll go with that."

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