Tom Brady used the phrase “get up to speed” seven times during this introductory Tampa Bay Buccaneers conference call.
Doing so will be especially difficult this offseason.
Brady, whose demanding nature was notoriously difficult for inexperienced New England Patriots newcomers to match, isn’t just switching teams for the first time in his career. He’s also doing so in the midst of a global pandemic that’s ground the sports world to a halt.
While no NFL games have been canceled due to COVID-19, the league has instituted several restrictions to combat the spread of the virus, including closing all team facilities and delaying the start of offseason programs, which were set to kick off next month. The odds of teams being allowed to hit the field at any point before training camp appear slimmer by the day.
Those spring workouts would have given Brady an opportunity to build chemistry with his new crop of offensive weapons, which currently includes zero former Patriots. Instead, the 42-year-old quarterback will need to find other ways of getting to know Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and the rest of his new Bucs teammates.
“I’m not going to make predictions about how the next few months are going to go,” Brady said Tuesday. “I don’t really know what’s going to happen with our access to the team facilities and so forth, so I’m going to do the best I can to be in conversation with guys and try to get together and find ways to meet up in different places and get to work in that sense. Technology is an amazing thing, and we’re going to use the technology as best we can to try to get to know each other.
“And for me, they’re ahead of me on what they need to know in terms of the offense, so I’ve really got to get up to speed with the things that they already know and their terminology. It’s just a lot of time and energy, but that’s what I love to do. The one way to start is to start doing it, and that’s what I’ve got to do.”
Brady referenced this “new reality” on more than a half-dozen occasions during his call. He reportedly plans to attend Bucs organized team activities if they take place after skipping the last two rounds in New England, but any decrease in offseason practice time will make grasping Bruce Arians’ offense and developing the necessary rapport with his pass-catchers all the more complicated.
“There’s a lot of ground to make up, because I haven’t worked with these players, and I’m going to have to learn what they do and their body language and how they like things,” Brady said. “That’s part of the challenge. It’s unfortunate what we’re going through in our world; it presents different challenges for all of us. So as soon as we have the opportunity to all be together in one place, we can really start working toward that, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
He later added: “You can’t talk your way into it. It’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of commitment and it’s a lot of people that are just aligned trying to do the right thing. Again, I don’t know when our first OTA will be, but I’m sure there will be a lot of guys that I’m excited to meet. I’m going to try to get the best out of myself and try to get the best out of them. It’s all going to be dependent on the guys in the building and the facility to make it happen.”
These coronavirus-related restrictions likely influenced New England’s decision to bring back Brian Hoyer following Brady’s departure. In Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham and Cody Kessler, the Patriots have three quarterbacks who know their system, decreasing the importance of spring practice reps.