Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians is well aware this isn’t just another week for Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, who will return to New England on Sunday night to face the Patriots for the first time since joining Tampa Bay before the 2020 NFL season.
“Like you said, (for) 98% of these guys, it’s just another game. We’re playing an AFC team on the road and we need a road win,” Arians told reporters. “But for two of them, it’s huge. It’s the biggest story nationally, and that’s all they’ll hear about all week, but that ain’t got a damn thing to do with their job. Just get yourself prepared to play and beat the Patriots, and let all the hoopla take care of itself.”
Easier said than done, of course.
Brady, a sixth-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, spent his first 20 seasons with the Patriots, during which he won six Super Bowl titles and cemented himself as the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
Gronkowski, a second-round selection in 2010, played nine seasons with New England, winning three rings and making a strong case to be considered the best tight end of all-time.
So, yeah, this isn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill homecoming, even though Brady and Gronk effectively turned the page last season by guiding the Bucs to a championship in their first year with the organization.
And it certainly isn’t just another game for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who’s looking to prove New England’s status as a perennial contender didn’t vanish when Brady left to sign with Tampa Bay in free agency.
But for most of the Bucs’ roster? Well, there probably isn’t the same emotional attachment, aside from wanting to step up and deliver for their teammates in Foxboro.
All told, both the Patriots and Bucs could use a win after losing to the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams, respectively in Week 3.