Tampa, Fla. — A little more than two weeks away from the start of the NFL season, Tom Brady is settling into a new home.
Not the sprawling mansion the six-time Super Bowl champion is renting from baseball Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, but rather Raymond James Stadium — stomping grounds of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as the site of the next Super Bowl.
The Bucs practiced Friday at their regular-season home for the first time since Brady joined them in free agency, taking a break from their normal training camp routine to give him and his new teammates a chance to familiarize themselves with the surroundings.
The 43-year-old quarterback led touchdown drives on two of four series he worked during a full scrimmage, including a 98-yard march to begin the session.
Brady smiled when asked if he experienced “butterflies” before taking the field under game-like conditions for the first time since ending a historic 20-year run with the New England Patriots.
“No butterflies. I’ve been in a lot of moments on the field,” the three-time league MVP said.
“It’s more excitement than butterflies. You’re on the field. You’re prepping with your teammates. We all got to dig a little deeper — 16 plays to start the scrimmage. Guys were getting hit, going in and out. There were a lot of good things to learn from what we were doing.”
With preseason games canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a chance the Bucs will hold at least one more scrimmage in the stadium before the team’s scheduled season opener at New Orleans on Sept. 13.
“I love the idea of practicing in the stadium. You get the proportions. You envision plays you make in practice happening in a game. … I remember a lot of practice touchdowns in end zones in the stadium. We got to a point where the stadium wasn’t that big a deal,” Brady said. “It was kind of like another great place for us to go perform.”
Coach Bruce Arians generally was pleased with the scrimmage on a hot, humid day, noting Brady not only had excellent command of the offense but did a good job of pushing exhausted teammates during the long TD drive to begin practice.
“He was solid, everything I thought he would be. Nothing new, nothing drastic,” Arians said. “He was forcing his will a little on some guys that were tired. They need that.”
Brady summed up the day as “another step in the process” to get ready for the Saints.
“For me as a player, it’s preparing myself the best way I can. Getting to the stadium, getting with my teammates, it was a good dress rehearsal, so to speak,” Brady said. “It has its challenges, and hopefully we can use these opportunities to grow and learn from one another. I thought today was a good step for us.”
The Bucs continue training camp without interruption, even as some other teams remain in discussions about social injustice issues and whether or not to practice while calling attention to the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Brady was asked about the response throughout sports.
“I think everyone makes the choices that they feel are best for them, and I think everybody is very sensitive of everything’s that’s happening,” Brady said.
“The communication that we have on a daily basis about social injustice is important for all of us,” Brady added. “Just trying to continue to listen and learn, to certainly the guys on my team and guys that I connect with, and do as much as we can to help things going forward.”
The Bucs met as a team before practice Thursday, deciding to commit to doing something as a group to promote change rather than take a day off.
Arians encouraged players to “find a cause and either support it financially or do something to change the situation, because protesting doesn’t do crap in my opinion.” The coach added he has been watching protests since he was a teenager in 1968.
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith later tweeted that Arians was “woefully misinformed about the history of protest both within sports and in America.”
The 67-year-old Arians fired back Friday: “Yeah, I have a history, and it might be a little longer than his.”