Mandatory mini-camp began on Tuesday for the Bucs, marking the return of all 22 starters for the first time since the Bucs won Super Bowl LV. With Tom Brady still getting back to 100 percent from an offseason knee procedure, it was uncertain if he would be practicing at all during mini-camp.
Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask and Ryan Griffin were out on the field early to warm up. Shortly after Brady emerged and joined in the pre-practice throwing session. Bruce Arians mentioned after practice that Brady was getting some work done on his body, which explained his late arrival to the field. If there was any concern about Brady, it rapidly vanished once he had the ball in his hands.
Ever the ultimate competitor, Brady had a pretty standard practice in terms of the amount of reps he received. Arians held Brady out of one blitz session, but the star QB participated in every other portion of practice. There wasn’t the slightest hint of rust in Brady’s game, as the ball barely hit the ground all morning.
Brady displayed the same type of arm strength and accuracy that we’ve all been accustomed to. When he was under center, incompletions were rare, from individual warmups until the last snap of practice. The Bucs passing drills mostly worked short-intermediate throughout the day, with Brady making a number of tight windows throws.
While Brady worked with his usual cast of characters, such as Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski, reps with new targets were in abundance as well. Brady put in a lot of time with new running back Giovani Bernard, while also working with Tyler Johnson and Jaydon Mickens.
One brief slip-up from Brady came during 7-on-7, when he was picked off by cornerback Ross Cockrell. Cockrell lined up on the left side and then had to sprint across the field as the ball was snapped. He still made it in time to cut off the throw to the outside and make the interception.
The highlight of the day was a laced throw to the sideline for Gronkowski, who pulled in the pass right before Antoine Winfield Jr. arrived. It may have been the toughest throw of the day. In red zone period Brady his usual sharp self, hitting Godwin for a score at the front right pylon on the first play of the session.
“He looked fine,” Arians said of Brady’s performance. “I had to pull him out a couple [times]. The first period I told him he could have four, he kept begging to go back in. The only thing I didn’t want him in was the blitz period. Guys are moving around too quick.”
Mini-Camp Notes And Observations
• Following individual drills, the roster was split up on two different fields. The right field was for starters and primary backups, while the middle field had the best of the rest. The quarterbacks were split up with Brady and Gabbert on one field and Trask and Griffin on the other.
• As mentioned in the injury report, DT Ndamukong Suh (wrist) and TE O.J. Howard (Achilles) were not present. WR Antonio Brown (knee), WR Jaelon Darden (hamstring tweak), WR Jonathan Franklin (knee) and S Jordan Whitehead (shoulder) didn’t practice, but were present. Arians expects the entire roster to be ready by training camp.
• Joe Tryon made his on-field debut with the Bucs on Tuesday, practicing in full. There wasn’t much to glean from him as a pass rusher just yet, but the first rounder looked smooth and under control dropping into coverage. Arians enjoyed what he saw.
“He’s full speed now,” Arians said. “He looked really, really good. He’s obviously everything we thought he was. We’ll learn more in pads, but he’s slippery in shorts, and a lot of guys aren’t. He showed a really good skill set.”
• Godwin was outstanding in red zone drills, as expected. He scored twice in the first four plays, both on passes from Brady. The second was a toe-tapping TD in the back corner of the end zone. Later in the session he caught another touchdown in the middle of the end zone between two defenders, with Brady slinging the ball into his gut.
• Vintage Gronkowski moment in practice. The big tight end jumped early on a hard count, got re-set, then caught a touchdown from Gabbert in the back of the end zone between two opponents.
Gronkowski looks trim and moved really well all day. After a year of re-adjusting to the game, don’t be surprised if Gronkowski is in better shape in 2021.
• Although Antonio Brown and Jaelon Darden weren’t practicing today, the duo stood together for much of practice. It was interesting to see given the popular comparison between the two. We’ll see if Darden will pick the brain of the talented veteran receiver, much like he did in getting advice from Mickens.
• The presence of Bernard will sure be a welcomed one. Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II and Ke’Shawn Vaughn all had a drop while running drills on air. Bernard received the majority of the red zone/goal line pass period work, coming up with a couple excellent grabs. He did have one pass go through his hands, although Javon Hagan had good coverage on the play as well.
• There were some fun battles between the starters during the passing sessions today – most notably Winfield Jr. against Gronkowski, Mike Edwards on Cam Brate, and Carlton Davis III lining up against Mike Evans. Each had a one-on-one battle for the ball. Edwards and Davis won their exchanges, while Winfield could have lit up Gronkowski at the catch point in a game situation.
• Ross Cockrell wasn’t the only defensive player to have an interception on Tuesday. Rookie 7th round pick Grant Stuard had an interception after the ball bounced off of Justin Watson’s hands. Cornerback Antonio Hamilton had a pass breakup as well during red zone drills.
• In the battle of recently broken ankles, Vita Vea bullied Alex Cappa for a pressure on one play during team period. Not many OL/DL observations in these unpadded practices, but that is one that caught our eye.
• The Bucs’ defensive line got in on the PBUs, too. Anthony Nelson and Will Gholston each knocked a pass down at the line of scrimmage.
• Safety Raven Greene flashed as well, nearly breaking up a late TD pass to Tanner Hudson from Blaine Gabbert, then knocking away a pass in man coverage on the next play. Greene has the most experience of all safeties competing to replace Andrew Adams, and has played some dime linebacker for Green Bay in the past.
• Speaking of red zone drills, it got really competitive between the backups on the middle field. The defense started out strong, breaking up some passes from Griffin and Trask. But as it went on the offense started to find its’ groove, especially Trask. He got the ball out quickly and was precise with his throws. Two of his touchdowns included a jump pass to Ke’Shawn Vaughn and a beauty of a fourth down pass to Josh Pearson.