Climbing Class In Session

July 25th, 2021

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It was a coming-out party for Buc Season Pass members and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.

They were there to see the defending champs, often referred to by Bruce Arians as the group that hasn’t done a damned thing in 2021.

They were there to see Tom Brady, flinging passes without a brace on that rehabbing knee. They were there to welcome Giovanni Bernard and renew acquaintances with Gronk and Playoff Lenny.

Bucs fans were out in full force today — farther from the field than usual.

“It’s nice having fans back out in the stands, getting loud and having a good time,” said Ryan Jensen. “Every year when I come to training camp, I try to forget about what happened the year before. Of course, winning the Super Bowl creeps into the equation, but it’s all about focusing on the work ahead.”

A national pandemic hangs over One Buc Place as much as the muggy weather and those bothersome gnats.

Night and day, Arians fears the possibility of a Covid outbreak at the facility. Knee and ankle injuries depend in large part on fortune, but NFL teams can manage Covid’s spread to a degree by following strict protocols. Tampa Bay’s team discipline was exemplary in 2020, while some other franchises struggled to minimize infection rates.

Covid-19 can wreck lives and football teams. At the moment, Buc players and coaches are sticking to the party line — everyone is entitled to their own judgment on whether to get vaccinated. But make no mistake, these decisions have consequences on the football field.

For example, Fournette says he is still undecided about a vaccine shot. While that’s his prerogative, Fournette is also battling Ronald Jones for the No. 1 running back spot. If Jones is vaccinated and Fournette isn’t, that’s a huge advantage for Jones in one of the few key competitive areas of the roster.

For his part, Arians appeared somewhat edgy following practice. He had no interest in clarifying any potential health issues and he’s certainly not thrilled the pads won’t come on for another week.

His roster may be stocked with Ferraris, but Arians is keeping one foot on the brake pedal. It’s all part of a master plan to keep the 2021 Bucs focused on the daunting task at hand.

Ryan Jensen

The White House visit and the ring ceremony closed the book on last season. If a taskmaster is needed this time around, Arians seems up to the task. Don’t expect him to lavish praise after a practice.

Any practice.

“You have to keep climbing that mountain top,” Jensen said. “You’re never really at the top. You just look at Tom. He keeps on climbing. You’d think he’s at the top of the mountain, but he’s always trying to climb to the tippity-top. And that tippity-top always needs to keep moving higher and higher because as soon as you feel you’ve reached the top, that’s when the downhill comes.”

Few Super Bowl rings were on display Sunday, but Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford could be seen showing off that glittering symbol of Buc supremacy. It’s a rather spectacular piece of jewelry, likely to be reserved for special occasions.

It’s a reminder of the blood, sweat and tears that fueled an unlikely champion. Even with Brady under center, the 2020 Bucs entered Week 1 facing 15-1 odds to win the Super Bowl. Now the Bucs are the favorites to represent the NFC in Los Angeles Feb. 13.

“We want another boat parade,” said Carlton Davis. “We want another ring ceremony.”

That long journey is now underway.

One Response to “Climbing Class In Session”

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