The decision by Tom Brady in March to forgo his retirement for now and play again in 2022 changed the complexion of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' season in many ways. Most obviously and most importantly, it means one doesn't have to strain to see the Buccaneers as a clear Super Bowl contender. It also helped nudge several prominent free agents towards remaining in Tampa, as well, and set in motion Bruce Arians' long-coveted succession plan to Todd Bowles as the new head coach.
The ripple effects of Brady's 'return' (can it called a return if he never really retired?) extend well beyond that, though, including into the team's plans for second-year quarterback Kyle Trask, who they drafted in the second round in 2021. During the 40 days that the Buccaneers cast about for the answer to replacing Brady, one suggested option was giving Trask an opportunity to compete for the starting job in 2022.
Now the Buccaneers can stick to their preferred plan for the former Florida Gator star, which is to continue his steady development behind the scenes while Brady leads the offense once again and trusted veteran Blaine Gabbert serves as his primary backup. And that plan has reached an important stage in May.
The Buccaneers conducted the first of 10 organized team activity days, or OTAs, on Tuesday, moving into Phase III of the offseason program, which allows for full-speed, full-team drills. Brady was not in attendance, though he did take part in some Phase II work at the AdventHealth Training Center and, according to tight end Cam Brate, may make some more appearances during OTAs. Gabbert and fellow veteran Ryan Griffin were on hand but, like Brady, they have a pretty firm grasp of the playbook. All of that makes Tuesday's practice, the nine other OTAs to follow and the three-day mini-camp in June the perfect time to get Trask some much-needed work.
This will really be a great couple of weeks here, the OTAs," said Quarterbacks Coach Clyde Christensen. "We're going to put a priority on getting him reps and see what he's like. It's just hard to judge anyone until you get quality reps against a defense. That's one of our goals in this camp. We've got three other veteran guys, who really don't need a ton of it. So, we're going to get him a bunch of reps to get a good, good look at him. I think he continues to progress and I'm glad we didn't have to find out opening day this year. That gives us another year to keep developing him and see. This offseason, that's one of the priorities."
Bowles agreed that this is the right time to put a little extra focus on Trask's development. He will likely see some live action in the abbreviated preseason and the Buccaneers would like him to be as prepared as possible for that work so they can get an accurate read of his progress.
"I think it's very important," said Bowles of getting Trask a lot of snaps in May and June. "Anytime you've got a young guy that gets extra reps going into training camp and has a chance to play, you give it to him."
According to Brate, Trask got off to a good start on Tuesday. His growth was evident in how well he corralled his offensive teammates even though it was a constantly shifting cast of characters missing most of the Bucs' man skill-position weapons.
"I thought Kyle did a great job today," said Brate. "Obviously, it's tough – he's working with a whole new group of receivers and kind of different groups of offensive linemen. Getting all those guys on the same page, that's huge for the quarterback and I thought Kyle did an awesome job with that today. And he made a couple great throws."
Bowles thought Brate showed good poise on Tuesday and mostly got to the correct reads in his progressions, but he needed to study the tape to get a better feel for how well it went for the young passer. Brate knows it's early in the process for Trask but can already see a big jump by the quarterback since last spring.
"You can kind of tell, he feels a lot more comfortable this year compared to where he was last year, with a full year of learning the offense," said Brate. "I think the future's really bright for Kyle. I think he's got a good mindset and demeanor about him to play the quarterback position in the NFL, and obviously the arm talent's there as well. He's just got to keep improving and keep stacking these good practices."