HEAD COACH BRUCE ARIANS
"Alright, the only person out is Jordan Whitehead. Everybody else is ready to roll. We had some 'vet days' today like we always do. The physical preparation is over. Now it's all mental from here to the ballgame – still a lot of work to do."
(On what the team will do over the next 48 hours)
"Go back over a lot of scenarios. We'll go through our walk-through tomorrow and cover as many scenarios as we possibly can. The 'what-ifs' of this game that always happen and always show up. Something new always shows up, that's for sure."
(On if there are more scenarios to prepare for because it's the first game of the season)
"Yeah, yes and no. We try to cover three a day in training camp and there's always, 'Hey, look what happened in this preseason game and look what happened in that preseason game. What would you do in that situation?' So, we've got still got a couple of those to cover, what happened last week to some teams."
(On what they are expecting from Dallas QB Dak Prescott as he comes back from injury)
"Knowing him personally like I do, there's no change in him [or] the way he's going to play. He only knows one way how to play, and that's full speed. So, we're preparing for the guy that [he] was [before his injury]."
(On Tom Brady revealing that he had COVID-19 in February)
"A bunch of people had it. A ton of people got it at the parade and he was just one of them, so to me it's nothing."
(On how the players handled crowd noise in practice)
"Really good. It's great to have it. We actually practiced both sides of it today, just in case. The Cowboys travel well and there's always a scenario where we could have to use it. We're prepared. Noise is never an excuse."
(On if he has a lot of confidence in S Mike Edwards to step in for S Jordan Whitehead)
"Oh, a ton. Mike has shown that he's more than ready and good enough to play a whole ballgame. I have all the confidence in the world in him."
(On the key Cowboys players that the Buccaneers have to stop on offense and defense)
"Offensively, it's Ezekiel [Elliott], because it all starts with him and that big offensive line. They're going to try to run the football, so we've got to get them in a one-dimensional game there. Defensively, those two outside pass-rushers, DeMarcus Lawrence and [Randy] Gregory – they can disrupt a ballgame. Our tackles are going to have to play a great game [and] our tight ends are going to have to do a heck of a job in the running game."
(On staying focused through the pomp and circumstance and the crowd noise of Thursday night)
"It's all part of it. They've all been in [big] ballgames. Most of them came from stadiums bigger in college, so it's not like they've never been in a big game with crowd noise. It was only one year away from it, so it shouldn't affect it. We'll embrace the excitement of the event, but we're not in the pomp and circumstance. We're in the locker room. It's the same old locker room."
(On not connecting with fans and signing autographs last year)
"They'd better not be signing any autographs at this one, either. It's just football. It's what we've been doing our whole life. Last year was just one year out of a long time. So, it's nothing new."
(On feeling the energy of the stadium)
"It's just another game. Yeah, it's going to be fun. It's going to be fun, it's going to be exciting. There's going to be an awful lot of Cowboys fans there, too. It should be what it's all cracked up to be. It's supposed to be the opening night of the NFL, so it should be great."
QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
(On how he feels going into Week 1 this season compared to last season)
"I feel pretty good. I feel like we have a great opportunity ahead of us and anytime you start the season and it's the first game of the year, it's pretty exciting. I know the stadium will be packed and it will be an exciting night for all of us. We worked pretty hard to get to this point and now we're through all the physical prep. Now we have a couple more days – 48 hours plus – to really mentally prepare, lock in and then try to go play our best game."
(On his experience having COVID-19 back in February)
"Probably what most people go through. Obviously [it's] been kind of a challenging time for everybody, but just happy I'm at this point now. It's kind of in the past for me, and again, just excited to play football."
(On COVID-19 playing a bigger role this season)
"That's a big part of it. I think we're certainly at more risk this year than we put ourselves in last year. Just look at all the different things that we're doing differently from last year at this time. I'd definitely say the risk is up for everybody. It would be very disappointing to miss games. You feel like you've done everything right. It's just kind of our reality so hopefully we can just navigate it as best we possibly can. I know every team is dealing with the same stuff. Want to talk about jersey numbers too? I can get on that. [I] feel pretty strongly about that."
(On getting butterflies before the first game of every season)
"Yeah, I think it's butterflies. It's kind of being anxious because you put a lot into it and emotionally you're at a super high point and you're really focused. We've had some really good days of practice and it definitely feels like a regular season week. Preseason is one thing – it definitely has a preseason feel. When the games don't count on the scoreboard, ultimately you know you're only going to play a certain amount of plays. But when you know everything counts , everything is in the books on this one – you want to be at your best. We've had a really good three days of prep and we just want to go out there and play really well. We have to go do it, it's one thing to talk about it. We put ourselves in a decent position to be ready to go. I feel like we're going to go out there and we'll be excited and we're playing against a really good football team with a bunch of really talented players and that's really well coached. We're going to have to play a great game."
(On what he sees from the Buccaneers mentality in trying to defend their title)
"I just think it's a whole other year. I think what we did no one can take away from us. In one way, you're not really defending it much, it's kind of in the books. They can't take away what we've done. It's really just a whole other year and experience. We have a chance to go out play the 2021 team the best we possibly can. I think our coaches put us in a great position to be successful. Our personnel department, Jason [Licht] has done a great job. We have a lot of continuity. We have a lot of things to build on and a lot more experience together. That's really all you can ask for as players is to be in the position that we're in. I'd just like us to go out and take advantage of that. As good as we played with the same group of guys, I'd love to see where we can get this year. Again, all of it is earned There's nothing given. It's not about a bunch of hype or a bunch of build up and BS. We have to go do it. I think that's about a bunch of guys that are really mature and see ourselves as professional athletes. We want to go out there and put our best out there."
(On going through a similar experience with a season-ending injury as Cowboys' QB Dak Prescott)
"Mine was in 2008, I was injured and I missed a whole year. Dak played a little more than I did. Last year, he played I don't know four or five games and had a great four or five games. He's a really talented player. Really since the day he came into the league, he's shown to be a great leader for the team. We're just expecting him to play like Dak Prescott does – very talented, loose in the pocket, throws a good ball, they have a lot talented skills players. For us offensively, we're going to have to do a good job putting our defense in a good position. I don't think we can give any extra possessions. Turnovers will be a big factor, field position is going to be important, getting off the field on third-down and us staying on the field, keeping the ball out of their hands is going to be important. They do a good job – good running backs, good receivers, great offensive line, Dak's a great player. They have one of the best offenses and a very talented defense, they're very deep at linebacker, they have a good push up front and I think they have a very talented secondary. It's a big challenge for our team."
(On navigating through emotions after coming back from a season-ending injury)
"I think we kind of feel invincible at times, especially playing a really physical sport. I think the one thing about getting injured is that we're not invincible. I think you have a different perspective when you come back. Sometimes, you're really disappointed when you lose games. It's more disappointing when you don't get to play in games. I'd rather play and lose than not play at all, as crazy as that sounds. If you're not playing then it means you're at home and I remember that was a tough year just sitting and watching all my teammates. I mean a pretty conscious decision that I was going to do everything I could at that point to stay as healthy as I could my entire career."
(On what his advice to younger quarterbacks would be on having a long and successful career)
"I mean I wrote a book on it. I really did. It's a good book too."
(On his expectations and goals for himself going into this season)
"I just really want to play at a high level for our team. I think they're counting on me to play really well, to play the type of football I'm capable of. I think just for me it's going to be about trying to kind of be the great leader and great player I can be on a consistent basis – day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out. That's what I'm trying to be every year. I'm trying to go out there and be the best that I can be."
(On where the offense can improve the most)
"I think if you look at it in that sense, that's the goal, but it's not like we won 60 to nothing. We had a lot of games where we struggled and games where we struggled to move the ball, struggled against certain blitzes, struggled to run the ball, struggled to complete passes, so we can improve in a lot of areas."
(On facing a team with a lot of offensive talent)
"I think whether they score or not, we feel like that's our job. Coach doesn't put us out there to punt. We want to go out there and score points too. They're going to move the ball, they're going to have some yards. Our defense – we both have to do a good job in the red area and it's always about points. You win or lose based on points. They do a good job of moving the football. If they score, then we have to score too. We're going to try and score every time we have the ball."
(On TE O.J. Howard returning from a season-ending injury last year)
"O.J. has worked really hard to put himself in the position he is in. I think he's prepared to have a great season. He has worked really hard through training camp, been available to the team – [he's] a very hard worker and doing all the right things. [I'm] really happy to have him back out there."
(On WR Mike Evans)
"I just have a great appreciation for Mike and his level of play, his leadership. He's a great guy. He's extremely competitive. He expects great things from himself and he's proven year in and year out what he's capable of. I love playing with Mike. He's an amazing player and so smart and gifted. He has all the ability. Mentally, he just knows sports. I think we have a great connection that's only going to get better. I love our group of receivers. Chris [Godwin] with what he's done, he's had a great camp. Scotty [Miller] has done a great job. Tyler [Johnson] has done a great job. Antonio [Brown] has done a great job, 'Mick' (Jaydon Mickens) has done a great job. Jaelon [Darden] as a rookie, there's been a lot on his plate. I like our position group."
TIGHT END O.J. HOWARD
(On what it will be like running out of the tunnel for the first time since his injury)
"It's going to feel great. It's a moment that I've always been playing in my head over and over again. To get back on the field, I'm just so excited. Not just for me to get back out there, but for us to have the fans back also. It's going to be a big moment so I'm just going to try and stay in it and enjoy it."
(On the toughest aspect of his recovery process over the past year)
"I would just say mentally more than anything. Really not physical, just trying to stay focused and trust the team that I have – the rehab doctors that I have and the training staff here – that we were going to get back to where I want to be. It was a slow process. It was long, but it worked out. That was the hardest thing just staying focused on that and knowing that everything would be okay."
(On the lessons he can share with his daughter after overcoming adversity in the past year)
"It's going to be awesome. Everything lined up where I got injured a couple days before she was born, so that on its own is an awesome story. It is going to be something I'm going to be able to tell for a long time – just about trusting the process, persevering and just fighting adversity. There are a whole bunch of things that can go into this story, so I will be looking forward one day to sitting down with her and talking about this."