With the team's first practice of training camp at the AdventHealth Training Center complete, here is a compilation of the best quotes from the podium.
Head Coach Todd Bowles
The Buccaneers added to their offensive arsenal by signing tight end Kyle Rudolph and wide receiver Julio Jones heading into camp. Rudolph adds depth to the tight end room following the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and departure of O.J. Howard (Bills) in free agency. Following suit, after a laundry list of injuries to the Bucs' receiving corps last season as the unit limped to the finish line, Jones is premature insurance.
"He brings intelligence, he brings toughness, he brings savvy, and he's played the game for a while," Todd Bowles remarked on Rudolph's addition. "So, he gives us an extra guy. He can block, he can catch the ball. Like you say, he's not going to replace 'Gronk' (Rob Gronkowski). We have to do that in a variety of ways, whether it's running backs, the other tight ends, the receivers. We've got to replace his catches in other ways. But [Rudolph] brings us a veteran presence, understanding the ball game, and he learns fast, so he'll help us on Sundays."
Replacing surefire Hall of Famer Gronkowski is a daunting task and Rudolph presents an upside as an established blocker, complementing Cam Brate in two tight end sets. He effectively seals the edge for running backs and is a reliable pass-catcher, creating a larger target for Tom Brady over the middle of the field to box out defenders. In a young tight end room featuring draft picks Cade Otton and Ko Kieft, Rudolph can pass long knowledge gained during his career spanning over a decade.
Enter Julio Jones. On his incorporation, Bowles described, "We've got to replace 'Gronk's (Rob Gronkowski's) catches. We've got an extra weapon, especially in the red zone and out in the field and we're going to put him to use. It gives us a chance to be more creative in some of the things we do, and we're happy to have him … He's got to learn the system, number one. He's been in a bunch of systems right now. He's a pro. He's going to learn it; it's probably just the terminology. His health has been an issue in the past and he's healthy right now, so we're going to monitor that and keep it up and make sure he can help us."
Injuries forced Jones to miss seven games in each of the past two seasons, hindering his production on the field. Although, with 13,330 receiving yards and seven Pro Bowl nods etched in his resume, the natural ability is obvious. Brady elevates those around him, and reinvigoration is eminent once Jones learns the Bucs' cadence and gains chemistry with No. 12. Jones is multi-faceted, opening up the playbook in Tampa Bay. He can stretch the field vertically with his speed, generate yards after the catch on short-to-intermediate routes, elevate the Bucs' screen game, block and take advantage of both man coverage and zones. Defenses will have another weapon to account for in the Bucs' offensive juggernaut – one that can paralyze from anywhere on the field.
Linebacker Lavonte David
Across the NFL, Buccaneers' Lavonte David and Devin White are touted as the best linebacker tandem in football. Paroling the middle of the defense, both feed off of one another. As David enters Year 11 and White enters Year Four, David discussed the ceaseless process in working towards continuity.
"Every year it's something different - every year you have to work on something that's different with the person you're playing with," David stated in continuous chemistry with White. "We still have to feel each other out because they may see something different than the way you see it, so we just have to be on the same page. Overall, I feel like we're the best, and I feel like we're going to try and continue to dominate the way we play. I feel like we complement each other well and it's the standard that we set when we're out there on the field - we just have to be the best when we're out there."
David excels in coverage, containing running backs out of the backfield and effectively erases tight ends over the middle of the field. That combined with White's downhill range and explosion out of his stance, creates a dangerous duo. As the tone-setters of the defense, they will strive for dominion this season – a byproduct of trust.
Wide Receiver Julio Jones
As Julio Jones spoke to media for the first time after officially inking his one-year deal on Wednesday, he made his mentality clear.
"I'm ready to go," Jones remarked. "At the end of the day, it's all about accountability. I have to be accountable for him, the team and everybody. When all is said and done, I've still got to come to work. I still have to put the work in. You can see Julio is with the Bucs, and we've got Mike [Evans], we've got Tom, but we've all got to put the work in. Nobody is going to give us anything, so we've just got to come out here and work each and every day. That's all it's about."
The Buccaneers have gone from an afterthought to championship contenders since Tom Brady's arrival and the ensuring Super Bowl LV title. Many teams will strive to usurp the Bucs in the NFL pecking order. As an NFC crown jewel with an overdose of talent at wide receiver and the arguably the greatest to ever play the game under center, the implications are clear. Despite the external noise, Jones stressed work ethic on his first day. He alluded to defenses playing more zones to try and contain the Bucs' receiving threats but the commitment to playbook installation and craft enhancement now will translate onto the field come September. Like the physical fortitude that encompasses the job description, the mind must be trained. Jones' mindset is right where it should be - work.
Tight End Kyle Rudolph
As Kyle Rudolph familiarizes himself with the Buccaneers' offensive system, the biggest thing for him is gaining the trust of Tom Brady and learning the ins-and-outs of Tampa Bay's route-running. With 10-plus years of experience in the league, Rudolph will have to un-learn what he grew accustomed to and shift to the Brady Way. For skill position players who begin working with a new quarterback, the adjustment period can often become lengthy. Gaining a rapport is the goal during camp to hit the ground running during camp. Brady hit Rudolph on a variety of passes from deep over the middle shots to quick comebacks, to kickstart the synchronization.
"My goal is to go out there that week (Week 1 versus Dallas) and be on the same page with Tom like we have been playing together for 10 years," Rudolph said. "That's what I mentioned before I told Tom, 'When you're sick of me, just tell me' because I feel that we are playing catchup in terms of the nuances of routes and how he wants things. Just spending that extra time together, whether it's in the meeting room watching tape or out here during individual periods or special teams. I don't know if it's fortunately or unfortunately for me, I've done this a lot over my career where you have to learn a new quarterback. Learn how they like routes ran or learn where they want your body in certain positions. I'm used to it, but certainly now more than ever I definitely feel like I'm playing catchup."
In his twelfth year in the NFL, Rudolph joined the Bucs to win a championship, a feat that has eluded his career. Chemistry formed now will stimulate growth and fortify the offense in 2022.