Tom Brady lifted Buccaneers just by being Tom Brady
After a failed drive in the third quarter of an October “Thursday Night Football” game against the Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady walked off the sideline, took off his helmet and hurled profanities at his offensive linemen.
On third-and-27, Brady misfired on a pass to receiver Mike Evans, took a hit from linebacker Khalil Mack and the referees called a holding penalty. It personified what Fox announcer Troy Aikman called “an ugly possession.” Still, despite the slew of mistakes, the Buccaneers lost by only one point.
Three months later, as Tampa Bay’s performance sharpened, the Buccaneers are now one win from becoming Super Bowl champions at their home stadium. And the same offensive line that bore the brunt of Brady’s ire is now thanking him for changing their direction.
Rain is in the forecast for Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Fla., but Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians isn’t worried about Tom Brady having problems in the rain.
“I feel like he’s the kind of guy that just elevates everyone else’s play,” guard Ali Marpet said. “Everyone wants to play at a higher level and obviously that happened this year. I feel like we’ve had some nice success and confidence and I think that’s something that he’s brought to us.”
Many expected that once Brady, 43, signed with the Buccaneers in free agency, the six-time Super-Bowl champion would raise the franchise to contention. Tampa Bay had experienced only two winning seasons since 2009, but many felt the Buccaneers had the tools to contend if they improved at quarterback. Brady was the missing piece.
“There is a reason why he has had so much success in this league over the last 20 years,” center Ryan Jensen said. “The way he works and attacks every day — it’s amazing that he can keep that pace. It’s awesome for a team to see how he works and how he operates on a daily basis. It’s very addictive for other guys to begin following a guy who plays that way and practices that way.”
Tackle Donovan Smith said he appreciated Brady for “being himself.” His personality allowed the team to jell, Smith said, and feel as if they didn’t need to change their personas in the locker room.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to see more minority coaching hires by NFL teams. “...it’s not what we expect going forward.”
“It helped a lot of guys be able to see it’s OK to be yourself and go out there and play,” he said.
Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell understands Brady’s accomplishments. Asked during his annual news conference if he was too strict for handing Brady a four-game suspension for the “Deflategate” saga six years ago, the commissioner smiled and said, “Brady has shown that he is probably the greatest player to ever play this game.
“Everyone just plays better when they’re with him, He’s an exceptional talent, but more importantly he’s one of the great guys. He’s real and he cares about this game deeply.”
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