Sep 9, 2020; Tampa, Florida, United States;Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (28) talks with general manager Jason Licht, owner Joel Glazer and owner Bryan Glazer at AdventHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs GM Jason Licht basks in afterglow of turnaround

Long before Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians shared morsels of Tampa Bay’s 2020 vision last February, the end game for the franchise was crystal clear.

Optimistic or outlandish depending on your vantage point, the Buccaneers planned to play for the Super Bowl in their home stadium in February 2021.

And here they stand, NFC Champions prepping to host the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7.

“I look back at this time last year compared to where we’re at right now — and we still have unfinished business,” Licht said Wednesday. “Everybody is very focused on this game — I can assure you of that. But, just how far we came in a short amount of time in terms of our record and where we’re at. It’s just a feeling of being grateful for our ownership for giving us the resources that they have to keep this team together, to go out and get Tom [Brady], to trade for Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] and make some other moves during the season when it would have been very easy for owners to pull the reins back a little bit for reasons that go along with being in a pandemic. But, [they] still wanted us to push forward because they desperately want this.”

Last February, Arians opened a choose-your-adventure offseason by revealing he wasn’t committed to quarterback Jameis Winston at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Jump ahead to pandemic times. As the sports world and world in general was slamming the brakes, high fives, hugs and handshakes were impossible to resist at One Buc Place.

The Buccaneers were celebrating in private when Brady penned a public farewell to the Patriots, leaving New England in free agency for a two-year deal in Tampa. About six weeks later, they had Gronkowski under contract and landed a dominant right tackle in Tristan Wirfs plus a starting safety, Antoine Winfield Jr., in the NFL draft.

The slow turn from challenging for the NFC South cellar to playoff — dare they say, Super Bowl — contention was rapidly looking like reality through Licht’s lens.

“You want to make some moves that hopefully get your team into the Super Bowl. I think when you sign a guy like Tom, it makes it a little more realistic,” Licht said. “Just talking to him the days after we signed him, you could just hear and feel the confidence that he had. It made it a little bit more real. Now, you never take anything for granted. We had some highs and lows in the season where things at times looked a little grim. We needed to pull together, but we never lost our confidence. Looking back on some of the things we talked about, you do kind of want to pinch yourselves a little bit saying, ‘Wow, this really did happen.’”

The Buccaneers couldn’t overtake the Saints in the South, but as a wild card won three playoff road games — one in New Orleans — to claim the NFC title. Brady, a 43-year-old quarterback, got them there along with a strong defense and young, talented wide receiver group.

Licht isn’t willing to take much of the credit, deflecting to Arians and the team’s scouting staff. Arians, the team’s call-em-like-you-see-em leader, won over Brady with a combination of tough love and autonomy that only makes sense when viewed in action.

For example, Arians said last week the difference between Brady’s 20 years in New England and this season in Tampa is the Buccaneers got out of his way.

“I allow him to be himself. Like, New England didn’t allow him to coach. I allow him to coach,” Arians said.

Offensive guard Ali Marpet said Wednesday the chemistry with a younger team is a credit to Arians.

“B.A. has done such a great job for us,” Marpet said, “kind of letting players play their own game and giving guys the opportunity to do what they do that makes them successful.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 25, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Buccaneers WR Godwin expected to return vs. Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Chris Godwin is expected to return from a finger injury and play in Sunday night’s NFC South showdown against the New Orleans Saints.

Godwin fractured his left index finger while catching a touchdown pass against the Las Vegas Raiders on Oct. 25. He underwent surgery two days later and missed an ensuing game against the New York Giants.

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said Friday that he was encouraged by what he saw from Godwin in practice.

“We’ll see how sore it is tomorrow. He caught the ball fine, but we’ll see how sore it is,” Arians told reporters. “But I would anticipate him probably playing, just knowing how tough he is and knowing what it all means to him.”

Godwin was a Pro Bowl selection last season when he established career highs of 86 receptions, 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns.

The 24-year-old has been limited to four games this season due to injuries and has 25 catches for 279 yards and two scores. He also missed time due to a concussion and a hamstring injury.

Arians said Godwin will be wearing a brace to make sure there isn’t a setback with the finger injury.

“They’ve got a very nice splint/brace thing worked out that he wore today. But Chris is tough. He’ll be out there,” Arians said. “If there was any jeopardy at all, we would not let him play. He’s been cleared, so we’ll just see how the pain tolerance goes and see how sore he is tomorrow.”

Sunday’s game also marks the first in which seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown is available to play for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay also features three-time Pro Bowl selection Mike Evans at receiver.

–Field Level Media

Sep 15, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown (17) warms up prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Buccaneers activate Antonio Brown

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers activated Antonio Brown from the suspended list on Tuesday, one week after signing the controversial star wide receiver.

Brown just completed an eight-game suspension due to multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The discipline prevented him from practicing with his teammates.

Speaking one day after his team’s 25-23 win over the New York Giants, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians is looking forward to assimilating Brown into the offense. Tampa Bay (6-2) hosts the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night.

“Just being an explosive player with the ball in his hands,” Arians told reporters of how Brown can help. “He’ll have a role and we’ll see how much we can get him taught. … We basically miss a practice this week on Wednesday because of the short week, so it will be a walkthrough practice and basically all learning.”

Brown’s talents have never been in question but his attitude has and that leaves the seven-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time All-Pro choice in the position of trying to revive his career.

After an acrimonious split with the Pittsburgh Steelers after nine seasons, he had brief flings with the then-Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots in 2019. He played in one game with New England before being released due to allegations of sexual assault and sending intimidating text messages to an accuser. Those allegations led to an NFL investigation.

Arians said he doesn’t expect any issues.

“He has to handle his own business off the field,” Arians said. “On the field, you find your role, accept it, embrace it, make sure you’re making the right plays and we’ll get you the ball.”

Arians was unsure how much playing time Brown will receive in the NFC showdown against the Saints (5-2).

Brown ranks third among active players in receptions (841) and is fourth in receiving yards (11,263) and touchdown catches (75).

Tampa Bay waived receiver Cyril Grayson in a corresponding move. Grayson had one reception for 3 yards in five games with the Buccaneers over the past two seasons.

–Field Level Media

Sep 15, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown (17) lines up during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Brown makes good impression in first Bucs’ workout

Antonio Brown made a good first impression on Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, who gushed over the wideout’s first workout with the team on Wednesday.

“He looks fantastic. I think we had really good conversations today, he and I,” Arians said Wednesday, the initial day Brown could enter the facility after going through COVID-19 protocols. “He was in the meetings and everything. And he’s working with Anthony Piroli and the strength staff. He looks in great shape. Yeah, ready to go next week.”

Next week would mean the Nov. 8 contest against the New Orleans Saints. Brown, who officially became a member of the team on Monday, is finishing up an eight-game suspension this week due to multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy and he isn’t yet allowed to practice with the team until the disciplinary action is over.

But Arians liked what he heard in his chat with Brown and expects to see him on the field with his teammates soon.

“He and I had a good conversation this morning,” Arians said. “He’ll be ready to go next week and in good shape.”

Brown is trying to revive his career after being a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time All-Pro choice during nine seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After an acrimonious split with the Steelers, he had brief flings with the then-Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots in 2019. He played in one game with New England before being released due to allegations of sexual assault and sending intimidating text messages to an accuser. Those allegations led to an NFL investigation.

Brown ranks third among active players in receptions (841) and is fourth in receiving yards (11,263) and touchdown catches (75).

Brown’s production has never been questioned but his attitude has been an issue. Arians, though, isn’t expecting any problems and believes the 32-year-old will follow all the COVID-19 protocols.

“He wants to play. If you want to play, you’ve got to do it,” Arians said. “In our conversation today, it’s ‘Go to football practice, go to work, come home and go back to work.’ He’s all in. I don’t think we’ll have any problems with those things.”

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady was teammates with Brown in New England for less than two weeks in 2019 and has pledged his support. He said he has tried to leave a positive impact on Brown.

“I had a lot of people support me over the years, realizing that I was far from where I needed to be and they would guide me and provide me with the help that I needed as a player to reach my potential,” Brady said. “… “You just try your best every day, realizing that a lot of people weren’t born with the same advantages that I’ve had growing up, they weren’t born with the same background or support systems that I had. I think that when you recognize that and bring that to relationships, all you can do is the best you can do.

“For me, I think that’s something I really enjoy still about playing football, is that I probably have more perspective than just about every player in the league right now, based on my years of experience and what I’ve seen. I want to see other guys succeed. And I think a lot of joy in my experience comes from seeing other people be their best and seeing people succeed in ways that can set their family up. I think that’s a really important aspect of football for me.”

Brown’s arrival comes as receiver Chris Godwin will miss Monday’s game against the New York Giants due to a broken left index finger. It currently is unknown if Godwin will be available against New Orleans.

Godwin, 24, has 25 catches for 279 yards and two touchdowns in four games this season. He has missed three others due to a concussion and a hamstring injury.

–Field Level Media

Sep 15, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) congratulates wide receiver Antonio Brown (17) during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Buccaneers ‘motivated’ to sign Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown is ready to reconnect with Tom Brady, and the out-of-work wide receiver is an intended target of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Brown scheduled a visit with the Buccaneers for Saturday and “both sides are motivated to complete a deal.”

ESPN reported Brown is still in discussions with the Seattle Seahawks.

Brown is suspended through Week 8, after which he could join a team to bolster its receiving corps. The Buccaneers have several options at the position, including Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but have been dogged by injuries this season.

Brady and Brown were briefly teammates last season in New England. The Patriots kept Brown for just one game after a short tenure with the Raiders.

Brown, 32, has been a free agent since September 2019, when the Patriots released him after one game — at Miami — following allegations of sexual assault and sending intimidating text messages to an accuser. Those allegations led to an NFL investigation.

In June 2020, Brown was sentenced to two years’ probation, ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation and enroll in a 13-week anger management course by a Florida court after pleading no contest to an assault charge unrelated to the allegations of sexual assault.

As part of the discipline, the league directed Brown to continue his counseling and treatment program.

Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, had 104 catches for 1,297 yards and a league-best 15 touchdown receptions for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018, his last full season. He has 841 career receptions for 11,263 yards and 75 TDs over nine full seasons and part of another.

–Field Level Media

Sep 20, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin before a NFL game against the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Buccaneers WR Godwin headed for MRI on hamstring

Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin is headed for an MRI exam on his injured hamstring, Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said Monday.

Godwin could miss “multiple weeks” according to reports, with the severity of the muscle strain to be confirmed.

Godwin left the Week 3 win over the Denver Broncos and was immediately ruled out for the rest of the game.

Due to a concussion, Godwin did not play Week 2. He had five receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown before exiting Sunday’s 28-10 victory.

Arians also said cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (hamstring) was scheduled for an MRI on Monday.

–Field Level Media

Sep 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) heads to the locker room following a 34-23 loss against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs’ Arians: ‘Tom and I are fine’

Public criticism of six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady from his head coach led to speculation he could already be in the doghouse with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Buccaneers lost at New Orleans in Week 1, when Brady threw a pick-6 and made other decisions openly chided by Bruce Arians, whose previous pupils include Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer.

“Tom and I are fine, so I don’t really care what other people think. It’s just what he and I think,” Arians said Wednesday. “We left the stadium fine (and) we showed up today fine, so there (is) nothing to talk about.”

Arians said he “thought we were ready” and questioned the connection between Brady and his wide receivers.

But Arians emphasized turning the page, even borrowing Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s phraseology that Tampa is “onto Carolina.” The Buccaneers host the Panthers on Sunday.

Between now and then, Arians said he is paying little attention to any pundits already writing his team off in the NFC South.

“I was amused when they handed us the Lombardi trophy in July. It’s part of the business,” Arians said. “You go with it and it’s one week at a time (and) one day at a time. We win a few games in a row and everybody will be back on the bandwagon [and] happy. It’s just part of the game. If we lose this week, the world will come to an end.”

Brady could be without wide receiver Chris Godwin (concussion) in Week 2. Mike Evans, limited last week by a hamstring injury, was able to practice Wednesday.

“He’s feeling good. He ran really well and had a good practice,” Arians said of Evans, who was officially listed as a limited participant in practice.

–Field Level Media

Aug 27, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws the ball as  head coach Bruce Arians looks on at AdventHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Arians on Brady’s Tampa debut: ‘Thought we were ready’

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians felt the same way about Tom Brady’s debut with Tampa Bay after watching it a second time.

“He looked like Tom Brady in practice all the time so it’s kind of unusual to see that in a ballgame because they didn’t do things that we didn’t get ready for,” Arians said Monday. “Everything they did we thought we were ready for.”

Brady threw two interceptions against the New Orleans Saints, including a pick-6, and was called out in Sunday’s postgame session by Arians for his “bad decision.”

The Bucs lost 34-23 in Brady’s first game since a split with the New England Patriots. Brady played 20 seasons for the Patriots and won the Super Bowl six times.

Arians and the Buccaneers were underdogs at New Orleans, and it was the first time in 75 games Brady’s team wasn’t favored.

Arians said he wasn’t shying away from hard coaching or criticism of Brady, who rarely was publicly critiqued by Bill Belichick with the Patriots.

“It’s not what he expects from himself nor to we expect,” Arians said Monday. “I would expect him to have a little more grit, a little more determination this week.”

Brady completed 23 of 36 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns and was sacked three times at New Orleans. He scored on a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

The Buccaneers host the Carolina Panthers in Week 2.

–Field Level Media

Aug 17, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians at AdventHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs coach Arians: ‘Protesting doesn’t do crap’

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians ripped ongoing protests and sports-driven boycotts as counterproductive.

“Your responsibility is to take action. I don’t know that protest is an action. I would beg them to take action,” Arians said, per The Athletic. “Protesting doesn’t do crap in my opinion. I’ve been saying it since 1968.”

Arians said the team’s social justice committee was meeting later in the day Thursday. But he said the team wouldn’t cancel or postpone practice for the sake of it.

Arians said he fully supports moving or canceling practice if the team comes up with a way to bring change.

“Not just taking a day off,” Arians said.

–Field Level Media