-Head Coach Bruce Arians has some pretty incredible feathers in his proverbial coaching cap. He had Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, Carson Palmer in Arizona and now Tom Brady in Tampa. He also had a guy in Indy named Peyton Manning – maybe you've heard of him. It makes Arians uniquely qualified to compare two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time… because he's coached both. On Wednesday, he was asked what similarities he sees in the two.
"I used to call Peyton a piranha, because you just couldn't give him enough information," Arians said. "He had notebook after notebook. Tom, he's the same way. He wants scouting reports on corners, linebackers from our pro scouts and every bit of information he can go into a ballgame with for his preparation. They both love taking guys aside. 'Hey, let's work on this route. This might be a little bit new – we might run it from a different formation. Let's go practice it when the defense is practicing.' They're always moving [and] they're always getting something done. They both have the ability to will themselves on their teammates and make them win. That's a very, very rare thing."
Brady has quickly bonded with his Buccaneer teammates, despite having no offseason and an abbreviated preseason to do so. He enjoys being a mentor now that he's older than pretty much everyone (his words, not mine) but he's far from the only veteran with experience on this roster. Running back LeSean McCoy has also taken on a mentor role, especially within his position room and no one appreciates that more than Leonard Fournette, who opened up a little bit about his journey so far this season with Tampa Bay.
"I think our relationship has gotten better," said Fournette of McCoy. "I always knew him but now that I'm physically with him every day, it's a wonderful feeling. He was the first person to reach out to me when I got cut by the Jaguars because he's been through that phase in his life and I think it's been the best thing for me having someone older in our room. Usually, I'm the oldest guy in the room but having someone who's experienced that, who's been through that and who's a Hall of Famer – he's going to get a gold jacket whenever he's done with this football stuff. I think just him being there even through my tough times when I wasn't starting, he told me, 'Man, it's all about God's plan.' I'm not used to that, coming from being a starter to sharing the ball, things like that. I'm used to being the whole offense. So I think my mindset has changed definitely this whole year as far as being the complete player as far as rooting for someone, cheering them on, things like that. Even though it wasn't the best year as far as my stats, I think the growth in me is amazing now. I just appreciate the Buccaneers for giving me a second chance. Guys like Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, JPP, a lot of those are the guys that took me under their wing and I'm just developing and learning and becoming a better player and a better young man while I'm here."
You've heard of the trickle-down effect and the aforementioned running back room is no exception. Rookie Ke'Shawn Vaughn has, in turn, learned from Fournette and Ronald Jones as well as he develops as a young player.
"I'm just sitting back watching them, taking everything they're putting out on the field and taking how they dissect the game and putting it into my world," said Vaughn. "Even if it's just knowing the whole formation and knowing everybody else's jobs – including yours – to make it easier. Then, just staying ready. The room by itself holds a lot of weight, so being able to fill in when it's my turn – that's the biggest thing."
It was his turn last Saturday when Vaughn played the entire second half thanks to a very, shall we say, pronounced lead by the Buccaneers. It was the latest in a three-win streak the Bucs have strung together. They're looking for their fourth-straight after the bye week to end the season 11-5 as they take on the Falcons at home.
"I think coming off the Bye Week, I started feeling it then," safety Jordan Whitehead said on Wednesday about the team's focus. "That's when I knew the guys' bodies would be rested and [we would be] eager to get back out there. It's showing when we're playing [and] it shows in practice [with] the enthusiasm we have out there [and] the communication. Everybody's just picking up their game and it's carrying over into games. We've got to keep that up going into the playoffs. This is a big week for us, too. We're focused on the Falcons and we've really got to tune into what we do because we played them a couple weeks ago. It's a lot of stuff we have seen, [but] different gameplans from them. They're going to come back and attack us differently, obviously. It's a game – we have to get ready for it."
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