BRADY, BUCS IN NFL’S SPOTLIGHT

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All eyes following the National Football League in 2020 will be focused on TB in TB — that’s Tom Brady in Tampa Bay.

For 20 years, the 43-year-old Brady — undoubtedly the greatest quarterback of all time — was a record-breaking fixture with New England Patriots, but the six-time Super Bowl champion wanted to spread his wings before hitting the retirement rocking chair. He played out his contract with the Patriots, had his agent weigh numerous offers, and finally decided he’d take TB12 to TB, Florida.

Not only were football fans around the world watching with eager anticipation when Brady’s Buccaneers opened the 2020 season this past Sunday in New Orleans, but Bucs fans are already making plans  for Super Bowl celebrations in February.

Tampa Bay, under offensive minded head coach Bruce Arians, was already a decent team with unlimited weapons — Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and O.J. Howard are among the top pass catchers in the league — when Brady joined the squad, bringing with him former Patriot Rob Gronkowski, an All-Pro tight end who retired following the 2018 season and lived a rock star lifestyle during his 12-month hiatus. But when Brady joined the Bucs, and Tampa officials expressed an interest in having Gronkowski join his long-time team-mate, he jumped at the chance to return.

With Brady guiding the offence instead of the interception-prone Jameis Winston, the Bucs could be dynamite this year — if there is ‘a year’. COVID-19 lurks everywhere, and while the NFL has taken extreme steps to keep their training facilities, locker rooms and stadiums virus-free, there are no guarantee interruptions, similar to the ones that plagued major league baseball early in its return to play, won’t occur.

“If we stay healthy, if we beat the virus, we’re gonna beat a lot of teams,” Arians told si.com’s MMQB.

Expecting spectacular, championship-style play from a 43-year-old quarterback, however, might be a fool’s game. Fans remember how quickly the skill levels of quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Brett Favre dropped off precipitously as they reached their late 30s. Brady, however, is renowned for his fitness and diet, and the Bucs, who signed Brady to a two-year deal with more than $50 million in guarantees, obviously feel he’s still at the top of his game. 

Whether Brady can lead Tampa Bay into the upper echelons of the NFL remains to be seen, but there is no doubt Brady and the Bucs will be must-see viewing — New England excluded — all year.

  • Dr. Carlos Del Rio of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, to reporters, on college conferences shutting down their fall seasons: “We have hit the iceberg, and we are making decisions about when we should have the band play.”
  • Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, on hitters still swinging for the fences instead of playing small ball with MLB’s new runner-on-second rule for extra innings: ”You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him bunt.”
  • Bob Molinaro of pilotonline.com (Hampton, Va.): “In Orlando, NBA coaches are neatly dressed in sneakers, slacks and polo shirts. Let’s have them lose the suits for good. What’s the point of basketball coaches dressing as if they’re applying for a bank loan?”
  • Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune, on the folly of trying to play football amid campus COVID spikes: “Have most of our colleges been in business only a few months? They seem shocked students prefer partying to rules.”
  • Comedy writer Brad Dickson of Omaha: “On the news tonight all they talked about were boycotts, protests, riots, violence, dissension, disease, lawsuits and court cases. And that was just the sportscast.”
  • From the Chicago Sun-Times, via fark.com: “Bears to keep two kickers all season. With one who kicks wide right, and the other wide left, they expect to have the best field-goal average of all NFL teams.”
  • Bob Molinaro again:  “If Usain Bolt can’t outrun the coronavirus without a mask, nobody can.”
  • RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Ex-Winnipeg Jet Dustin Byfuglien recently pled guilty in a Minnesota court. He got two days community service for unsafe boating and a $1,000 fine for an unpronounceable name.”
  • Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: Giants manager Gabe Kapler challenged a play at first base with his team ahead 18-2 in the seventh inning. So why isn’t there an unwritten rule about that?”
  • Perry again: “Allegiant Stadium, the Raiders’ new home in Las Vegas, will be the first American pro sports venue that won’t accept cash for game-day transactions. And no, not poker chips, either.”
  • Brad Dickson again, on reports that steroids might be effective against COVID-19: “I guess Big 12 and SEC football players don’t have anything to worry about after all.”
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