Quarterback Tom Brady's new beginning in Tampa Bay is full of new experiences, sure, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's taking a new approach.
"Ultimately, my goal is to go out there and do what I've always done, [which] is to be the best I could possibly be for the team," said Brady via videoconference on Thursday, his first meeting with the media since March.
Brady's best is arguably the best it gets for any team. The three-time league MVP is a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer and led his former team to six championships. He managed those feats with his notorious work ethic and attention to detail. Not to mention the way he meticulously cares for his physical well-being. He may be entering his 20th NFL season, but watching him on the field – you'd never know it.
"It's given me a great opportunity to be at this age, still playing the sport that I love because mentally I still feel like I have all the ability," said Brady. "I've seen every defense, there's [no] play I haven't run, there's no defense I haven't seen. It's just physically, are you still able to execute your job? I'm very fortunate to still be able to do that."
'Still doing that' and being the best comes with its challenges, though. That's true this year for myriad reasons.
First, it's Brady's first time adjusting to a new team since 2000 when he came into the league as a now-infamous sixth-round pick of the New England Patriots. Since then, he's been able to hone his craft and tailor his game to the system around him – and vice versa. Now, everything has been upended and he's starting over. And to do that, the first thing Brady did was look inward.
"Obviously for me, changing teams after a long period of time [has] given me an opportunity to really look at myself and what I want to continue to achieve in my career and think that I can bring to a team," he said.
Second, he's had to look outward at his surroundings and learn an entirely new system and playbook.
"I mean I really haven't had to do that in 19 years, so you forget, 'Man, that's really tough' – like all of the different terminologies," said Brady. "You're trying to learn a bunch of different things and you're trying to not only learn an offense, but learn your way to work or learn guys' names. I didn't even know where the quarterbacks' room was or [where] the full team meeting room was. You get in here and your brain is trying to figure out a lot of different things."
View some of the photos from Buccaneers Training Camp practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.
And if all that wasn't enough, you have to throw in a global pandemic that robbed the signal caller of valuable offseason reps with his new squad. The offseason program was wiped out entirely to help the league safely operate while mitigating the spread of COVID-19. That offseason program is usually a time to get on the field and in meeting rooms with your team to learn the system together. And in case you think the guys that were around last year already know everything, good teams make drastic changes and improvements to each side of the ball every offseason. So, while this being the second year under Head Coach Bruce Arians and his staff is a good thing for continuity's sake, the relative lack of team turnover can only take you so far.
"I think conversations we probably would've had in April, we're having now," said Brady. "I think that part has been challenging too, but the only thing you can do is adjust to the situation, adapt the best way you can [and] put as much time and energy now as we can into it. I think the reality is, the clock is ticking on everybody. We're going to have to work as hard as we can and not waste any minutes of any day trying to get used to one another. [We need to] embrace the challenge and see it as an opportunity to see what we can become."
Brady has certainly embraced his new teammates, too. Just in this past week of workouts, he can regularly be heard yelling out encouragement and praise to his receivers. He's laughing with his fellow quarterbacks during conditioning, cracking jokes at his and their expense. It's like they're all old friends already. Football has a way of doing that, I suppose.
He's also seemed to fit right in with his new coaches – even Arians insists he's just another player and 'gets cussed out like the rest of them' already.
"I really enjoyed being with Jason [Licht] and getting to know Bruce [Arians], getting to know Byron [Leftwich] and Clyde [Christensen] and a bunch of guys that I competed against either as a player or with them as coaches," said Brady. "It's been kind of fun in that way to see the different approaches to the game and so forth. Everybody sees football a little bit different. It's about how we all see it together and how we can all be on the same page as we move forward."
The Buccaneers are currently within their league-mandated strength and conditioning window, which will last until August 11. On August 12, they'll begin a 'ramp-up' period that will look very similar to OTAs. Then padded practices begin on August 17 and they'll have 14 chances with full gear on to get ready for Week One at the division-rival New Orleans Saints on September 10.
"I think you just have to do what you can with what we're all dealing with, try to make the most of it and try to understand that the clock is ticking on all of us," Brady said. "We've got a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time.
"Every day that goes by it's getting a little bit better. It's been a good week or so being in here and I think I'm going to take advantage of the opportunity to improve myself so that I can be the best quarterback for this team that this team really deserves. These guys are working really hard and I want to come in here and do a great job for them."