The usual spectacle will be largely lacking but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs are about to begin the media gauntlet that leads up their clash in Super Bowl LV on Sunday.
The NFL will conduct "Opening Night" on Monday with a series of virtual interview sessions with players and coaches on both teams. For the Buccaneers, that includes Head Coach Bruce Arians plus 18 assistant coaches and nine core players. More players will conduct interview sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as well.
Like many operational changes that made the 2020 NFL season the most unusual one in league history, this interview format was necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, the Super Bowl media blitz was highlighted by "Media Day," a mass gathering of both teams at a sea of podiums inside the stadium where the game was to be played. One thing remains the same, however: Many of the interviews will be conducted simultaneously, allowing member of the media to switch from one "podium" to another during 30 or 45-minute sessions.
Even with the virtual format, the media responsibilities for players and coaches in the week leading up to a Super Bowl are much more than what they experience in a normal week. Arians, who won two Super Bowls as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, knows this and approached practices during the less intense Super Bowl bye week accordingly.
"We ramp it up this week because there's so many obligations with the media next week [that] you don't want to try to teach your game plan," said Arians last Thursday. "We'll ramp it up again next week, but we're getting everything taught [this week]. We had a great practice today and we'll go full speed Friday and Saturday. Then, come back and get a full week's work in. Again, while there are obligations to the media and everything else, it's different next week."
Three of the Buccaneers' virtual interviews will be carried live on Buccaneers.com on Monday: Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich at 11:00 a.m. ET, Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles at 11:30 a.m. ET and quarterback Tom Brady at 12:00 p.m. ET.
In addition, each of the press conferences will be posted on Buccaneers.com shortly after their conclusion. The players and coaches conducting interviews on Monday have already been scheduled and are listed below. Several dozen more Buccaneers players will conduct virtual interviews from Tuesday through Thursday, including Carlton Davis, Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones on Tuesay; Antonio Brown, Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield Jr. on Wednesday; and all five starting offensive linemen on Thursday. Arians will be available to the media at 1:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday and 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and Brady will speak gain on Wednesday and Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
Here's a look at 28 Tampa Bay players and coaches taking part in Opening Night on Monday and a few topics they are likely to be questioned about:
11:00 a.m. ET Session
- Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin – How will the Bucs split the carries between 2020 leading rusher Ronald Jones and hot hand Leonard Fournette? Can the Bucs control the flow of the game with a strong rushing attack?
- Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich – Are the Bucs prepared for Kansas City's aggressive blitzing tendencies? What kind of leadership do you expect Tom Brady to show this week with a team lacking in Super Bowl experience?
- Tight Ends Coach Rick Christophel – Will Rob Gronkowski be targeted more often in the Super Bowl than he was in the first three postseason games? How important are the tight ends to the Bucs' improved running game?
- Quarterbacks Coach Clyde Christensen – What's behind Tom Brady's vastly improved results on deep passes since the bye week? How involved is Brady in devising the Super Bowl game plan?
- Wide Receivers Coach Kevin Garver – Do you expect the Chiefs to target a specific receiver to try to take out of the game plan? Are you comfortable with the receiver depth if Antonio Brown can't play?
- Offensive Line Coach Joe Gilbert – How has young guard Aaron Stinnie fared replacing Alex Cappa in the starting lineup? Are the Bucs concerned about the potential pressure Chris Jones could apply up the middle?
- Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach Maral Javadifar – How do you feel about Head Coach Bruce Arians' commitment to diversity and inclusivity on his staff? How have the players responded to your efforts to help their performance through physical therapy?
- Running Backs Coach Todd McNair – How did Leonard Fournette handle a season in which he wasn't always a focal point in the offense? Is Ronald Jones back to full speed after some late-season injuries?
- Assistant Coach Tom Moore – In your 45 seasons coaching in the NFL have you ever seen a season as unusual and difficult to navigate as 2020? How eager are you to see Bruce Arians get his first championship as a head coach?
11:30 a.m. ET Session
- Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong – How important was it to the Buccaneers in 2020 to find a kicker in whom they felt confident on every kick? Is Mecole Hardman a particular concern in the return game?
- Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles – Is it important to get pressure on Patrick Mahomes with a four-man rush? Do you expect to see some new play-calling wrinkles from Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid?
- Inside Linebackers Coach Mike Caldwell – Is Devin White playing as well right now as he has at any point since entering the NFL? How is the Bucs' depth if Lavonte David can't play or is limited?
- Outside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote – Does the Chiefs' shuffling on the O-Line after the injury to Eric Fisher give the Bucs' pass-rushing opportunities? Do you have to approach your pass rush against Patrick Mahomes differently than some other quarterbacks?
- Assistant Defensive Line Coach – Do you think it will be a common sight seeing women coaching in the Super Bowl? How much of a boost was it to get Vita Vea back for the playoffs?
- Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Anthony Piroli – Has the commitment of the players to strength and conditioning this year led to a relatively low number of serious injuries? How hard has it been to get everything done with the COVID restrictions?
- Safeties Coach Nick Rapone – Were you pleased with the play of Andrew Adams and Mike Edwards after both Antoine Winfield and Jordan Whitehead were sidelined? Are you hopeful Winfield and Whitehead will be back for the Super Bowl?
- Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers – Do you think the return of Vita Vea in the NFC Championship Game had an impact on the more effective edge rush? How much will the line lean on Ndamukong Suh's leadership in Super Bowl week?
- Cornerbacks Coach Kevin Ross – Can you point to something for the improved and impressive play of Sean Murphy-Bunting in the playoffs? Is there a more effective strategy against Tyreek Hill in terms of pressing or not?
12:00 p.m. ET Session
- Head Coach Bruce Arians – How focused is this team on the task at hand? Will they be able to treat this week like a normal week?
- Outside Linebacker Shaquil Barrett – Do you have to be disciplined in your pass rush against a quarterback who creates so well on the run? Do you think the Bucs can put pressure on Mahomes?
- Quarterback Tom Brady – Do you spend much time thinking about the potential history at hand in your 10th Super Bowl appearance or save that for after the game? What has been the key to the offense getting on a roll over the last seven weeks?
- Inside Linebacker Lavonte David – Do you expect to play in the Super Bowl? How satisfying has this postseason journey been after nine years in the NFL?
- Wide Receiver Mike Evans– Do you think the Chiefs' aggressive press-coverage tendencies could lead to big-play opportunities? After waiting seven seasons just to make the playoffs, how does it feel to be in the Super Bowl now?
- Wide Receiver Chris Godwin – You've been involved in a lot more pre-snap motion in recent weeks; do you think that has made a difference in the passing game? How much would establishing a run game early open up things for you and the other pass-catchers/
- Tight end Rob Gronkowski – When you decided to come out of retirement did you envision getting right back here to the game's biggest stage? Do you think you might get some more passes thrown your way in the Super Bowl than in recent weeks?
- Outside Linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul – How does this Super Bowl experience compare to your first one from nine seasons ago? How difficult has it been to maintain a high level of play despite very little practice time?
- Defensive Lineman Ndamukong Suh – What can you take away from the Bucs' last meeting with the Chiefs in Week 12? How much has getting Vita Vea back helped the defensive front?
- Inside Linebacker Devin White – Do you expect to be the one making a big play when the defense really needs it? How difficult is it to slow Travis Kelce down over the middle of the field.