Tom Brady was back at Tampa Bay Buccaneers headquarters Monday and on the practice field in the afternoon, and to no one's surprise he didn't miss a beat after being away from the team for 11 days.
"Pretty much as expected. … If anyone can get away with the 11-day break during training camp, it's Tom," said veteran tight end Cameron Brate. "And he came back kind of firing on all cylinders again today. We're all excited he's back and ready to move on with that, yeah."
Brady's mid-August break, an excused absence planned before the start of training camp, began on August 11. The Buccaneers held five practices and played in one game during his time away from the team tending to personal matters; Monday was the first practice since the team's 13-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Nashville on Saturday.
Head Coach Todd Bowles said Brady got a full complement of work and had no trouble getting back into the flow with the Bucs' offense.
"He's very familiar with the offense, so him coming back in and us getting back to work is kind of normal," said Bowles. "Just getting used to the heat and getting used to the guys, but he ran the offense well. Anytime you have all your guys back you feel good, you know, especially after the injury bug has hit lately. We're happy to have him back."
View some of the top photos from Buccaneers Training Camp practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.
That injury bug has hit the Buccaneers receiving corps particularly hard with Mike Evans, Russell Gage, Breshad Perriman and Cyril Grayson all missing time in recent weeks. In addition, Chris Godwin is in the latter stages of his return from a torn ACL last December. Encouragingly, Brady's return coincided with significant progress on the practice field for both Evans and Godwin.
Evans has missed roughly two weeks of work due to a minor leg injury, but he was back in action without limitations on Monday. Godwin was also in the mix, donning a black jersey to indicate that his teammates should avoid contact with him. With that precaution in place, Godwin was cleared to take part in more of the full-team drills.
"Both of them practiced," said Bowles. "They practiced fully. We're getting [Godwin] into team drills slowly. He's doing certain things, but he ran a lot…a bit of team [drills] today."
In the same way that the absence of Evans, Godwin and Gage on preseason game nights has led to more reps for young receivers – and players such as Jerreth Sterns and Deven Thompkins have taken advantage – Brady's break was a chance for some of the Bucs' other veterans to take on more leadership roles.
"Tom is such an omnipresent being," said Brate. "He's the unquestioned leader of the team, right, so for him to not be there for 11 days it was kind of a good opportunity for other guys to kind of step up and fill that void. I mean, it was different. Tom's usually cussing guys up and down the field when we're messing up but we didn't really have that. So it was different but I thought some of the other veterans stepped up. I thought Blaine [Gabbert] did a good job commanding the first-team offense when Tom was out."
Still, Brady's teammates were clearly happy to have him back and had harbored no worries that he would fail to return at the allotted time.
"No doubt at all," said linebacker Lavonte David, a team captain for the past eight seasons. "Whatever time they said that he was going to be out I knew whenever it was his time to come back he was going to come back. Tom is a competitor, he's a team guy, and there was no doubt in our minds at all that he was going to be back on time.