Feb 7, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) reaches for the ball during the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs stop here: Bruce Arians hopes to keep free agents

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians saw his team overcome the odds to win the second Super Bowl trophy in franchise history.

Now comes what might be even the more difficult part for the Bucs — retaining their stars in a bid to repeat as champion.

Wide receiver Chris Godwin, who made a base salary of $2.1 million in 2020, is one of the several standouts slated to hit free agency in a month. He could receive the franchise tag to remain with the Buccaneers and play alongside fellow wideout Mike Evans, who will make $12.25 million in base salary in 2021.

“(Godwin) loves it here,” Arians said Thursday on 95.3 WDAE Radio. “It’s hard to leave and go to another system just for money. But it’s not bad paying two No. 1 receivers, that’s for sure, when they’re as good as our two No. 1s.”

The Bucs will have slightly more money at their disposal after the NFL raised the salary cap floor to $180 million on Thursday.

“It’s usually the money … if it’s close, I think our guys really want to stay,” Arians said. “They know they have something special. I don’t think any of them want to leave. I don’t get involved in the dollars. I just let them know we want them back.”

Godwin, who turns 25 next week, recorded 65 catches for 840 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games last season. His numbers took a dip after his breakout Pro Bowl season campaign in 2019, during which he posted career-high totals in receptions (86), receiving yards (1,333) and touchdowns (nine).

Wide receiver Antonio Brown, running back Leonard Fournette, tight end Rob Gronkowski, linebackers Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David, and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh are all free agents.

–Field Level Media

Feb 7, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (28) is congratulated by head coach Bruce Arians (right) after a touchdown run in the third quarter of Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs’ Leonard Fournette almost cut prior to playoffs

Running back Leonard Fournette put forth a postseason performance that likely won’t be soon forgotten by fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Heck, the nickname “Playoff Lenny” entered the sports lexicon after Fournette totaled four touchdowns in four postseason games, including one in Tampa Bay’s 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

That sizzling run wouldn’t have come to fruition, however, had Fournette not accepted his role on the team after fellow back Ronald Jones appeared to take the lead in the backfield.

Fournette reportedly was unhappy after he was inactive for the Buccaneers’ game against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14. Coach Bruce Arians said he had a conversation with the former first-round pick the following day, one that he now shared with the Tampa Bay Times.

“I said, ‘This is your situation. It can change at the drop of a hat,’” Arians said. “But this is your situation. Either embrace it, or you say, ‘Cut me.’ I said, ‘What do you want? Because this is a very special team that you’re part of. I think you’ve got a feeling of that. Just see if you can hang in there to see what happens.’ And he did, and I’m really proud of him.”

Prior to this conversation with Arians, Fournette had 69 rushing attempts for 271 yards and three touchdowns. The 26-year-old also had 28 receptions for 171 yards.

After the talk, Fournette rushed for three touchdowns in the next two regular-season games. He also had 300 rushing yards and three touchdowns to go along with 18 catches for 148 yards and a score in the playoffs.

–Field Level Media

Feb 10, 2021; Tampa Bay, Florida, USA;   Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate during the  Tampa Bay Buccaneers boat parade to celebrate their victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs celebrate Super Bowl win with rowdy boat parade

Pandemic or not, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrated their Super Bowl LV championship in style on Wednesday.

With thousands of fans lining the Hillsborough River near downtown Tampa, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians enjoyed the moment with a beer in one hand and a microphone in the other.

“We have the best coaching staff in the NFL. And we damn sure have the best players in the NFL,” the 68-year-old Arians said. “We’re going to keep the band together.”

The band leader is, of course, quarterback Tom Brady, who followed up his Super Bowl MVP-winning performance in a 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday by completing another pass three days later. Brady tossed the Lombardi Trophy from his boat to another, with tight end Cameron Brate making the catch.

“That was the best catch of my life,” Brate said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “Unbelievable. That was the best catch of my life. If I had dropped that? I think I would’ve had to retire.”

Retirement doesn’t appear to be on the table for Arians and tight end Rob Gronkowski this time around. Gronkowski, in fact, celebrated on Wednesday with his shirt off and beads around his neck.

On the heels of his record fifth Super Bowl MVP award, the 43-year-old Brady appeared to be a bit tipsy after making it safely back to land. Third-string quarterback Ryan Griffin was seen helping him off the boat.

Brady had a little fun on social media at his own expense.

The Buccaneers can afford to have a little fun after recording their second Super Bowl title in franchise history, even if they could not celebrate in unbridled fashion. Tampa Bay’s mayor Jane Castor had implored attendees on foot to respect social distancing guidelines and asked fans to don masks, rules which appeared to be followed by some, not all.

Of the many private boats and vessels also floating nearby, they were asked to remain at least 50 feet from all boats carrying players and members of the organization.

–Field Level Media

Feb 7, 2020; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) during the second quarter of Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Tom Brady apologizes to Tyrann Mathieu via text

Quarterback Tom Brady apologized to Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu via text message following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31-9 win in Super Bowl LV on Sunday, according to an ESPN report.

In its report on Monday, ESPN wrote that it was read the contents of the text out loud.

Brady, 43, and Mathieu had several on-field verbal altercations, with the latter being flagged on one occasion for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Mathieu, 28, was shown pointing a finger in Brady’s face, while the quarterback chased the safety down after he threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown. Mathieu was defending Brown on the play.

Per the report, Brady called Mathieu “the ultimate competitor” as well as a “class act” in his text. He also said he’d like to apologize to Mathieu in person in the future.

“Listen, Tom Brady’s a great quarterback,” Mathieu said after the game. “I never really saw that side of Tom Brady, to be honest. But whatever. No comment. It’s over with. I’m done with it.”

Mathieu, however wasn’t done with it on social media. He said Brady started the verbal issues when he called Mathieu “something I won’t repeat” in a since-deleted tweet.

“He’s clearly chasing me, but I got flagged,” Mathieu said in another deleted tweet.

–Field Level Media

Feb 4, 2020; Tampa, FL, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) celebrates scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Brady’s TD pass to Gronkowski gives Bucs 7-3 lead over Chiefs

Tom Brady engineered his first touchdown in the first quarter of a Super Bowl, throwing an 8-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski to give Tampa Bay a 7-3 lead over Kansas City after one period.

The connection was the 13th playoff TD from Brady to Gronkowski, an NFL postseason record. The score capped a 75-yard drive in which Brady went 4 of 5 and Leonard Fournette added 26 yards on four carries.

The Chiefs drew first blood at the 5:10 mark when Harrison Butker booted a 49-yard field goal. Kansas City padded a streak to 62 straight games in which it owned a lead, though Mahomes went just 2-for-8 in the quarter for nine yards.

The Bucs went three-and-out on the game’s first possession after the Chiefs won the coin toss and deferred. The Chiefs only gained one first down on their first series, while a sack of Brady by Frank Clark ended Tampa Bay’s second possession with just one first down.

–Field Level Media

Jan 24, 2021, Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers' Aaron Jones (33) fumbles thebasl after being drilled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Jordan Whitehead (33,white) during the third quarter of their NFC Championship game Sunday, January 24, 2021 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Tampa recovered  the ball and scored on the next play. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Green Bay Packers 31-26. Mandatory credit: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK

Reports: Bucs’ Jordan Whitehead (shoulder) to play vs. Chiefs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead is expected to play in Super Bowl LV on Sunday despite nursing a shoulder injury.

Whitehead, 23, sustained the injury in the third quarter of Tampa Bay’s 31-26 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 24. He was limited in practices on Wednesday and Thursday but was a full participant on Friday.

Multiple media outlets reported that Whitehead has a torn labrum and will require surgery after the game. He is expected to wear a protective harness when the Buccaneers face the Kansas City Chiefs.

Whitehead recorded 74 tackles, two interceptions, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 16 games during the regular season.

He has 219 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks and two fumble recoveries in 45 career games (41 starts) since being selected by the Buccaneers in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) smiles with wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) after he scored a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Bucs expect AB, Cameron Brate to play

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers expect wide receiver Antonio Brown and tight end Cameron Brate to play in Sunday’s Super Bowl, ESPN reported Saturday.

Both are listed as questionable.

Brown has been bothered by a knee injury that caused him to miss the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 24.

Brate (back) was added to the injury report late in the week. He was limited in Thursday’s session.

The Bucs play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV in Tampa.

–Field Level Media

Feb 1, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; In this still image from video provided by the NFL, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, left, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady speak during Opening Night for the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Monday, Feb. 1, 2021.  Mandatory Credit: NFL via USA TODAY Sports

QB battle for ages takes center stage at Super Bowl LV

Just two years ago, Tom Brady sought out Patrick Mahomes after the AFC Championship Game to console the youngster and provide encouragement.

Mahomes hasn’t lost a playoff game since that conversation, and he will look to lead the Kansas City Chiefs to their second straight title when they face Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV on Sunday in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

The Buccaneers will be the first team in Super Bowl history to play in their home stadium, while the Chiefs are looking to become the first repeat Super Bowl champs since Brady’s New England Patriots were the victors after the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Kansas City defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in last season’s Super Bowl for the franchise’s second-ever title. That victory came just more than 12 months after Brady entered the Chiefs’ locker room in search of Mahomes.

“It was important because it showed I was doing things the right way,” Mahomes said while reflecting on the conversation. “As a young quarterback in this league, you show up early and you try to put in the time and put in the work. …

“Him saying that he respected what I was doing and how I was playing on the field and the type of person I was, it kind of put a stamp on me that I needed to go in and even be better in order to get to the Super Bowl.”

Now Mahomes stands in the way of Brady’s hunt for his seventh Super Bowl ring. Sunday will mark Brady’s record 10th appearance in the big game.

Brady won six Super Bowl crowns with the Patriots but departed after last season as a free agent and signed with the Buccaneers.

The 43-year-old enjoyed a big season as he passed for 4,633 yards and set a franchise record with 40 touchdown passes in the regular season. And his motivation level is high as he looks to help Tampa Bay win its second Super Bowl title.

“My life has taken certainly a lot of different directions,” Brady said. “I’m obviously older now. I’ve got a family. A lot of incredible blessings in my life. Fast-forward 21 years, sitting in Tampa and trying to win a Super Bowl in our own home stadium would be pretty sweet.”

Mahomes, 25, passed for 4,740 yards and 38 touchdowns this season. His top yardage total was the 462 he piled up in Kansas City’s 27-24 road win over the Buccaneers in Week 12.

Brady passed for 345 yards and attempted to lead his team back from a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit in that contest.

Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill had a game for the ages with career bests of 269 receiving yards on 13 catches. He also matched his high of three touchdown receptions.

Hill had an astounding 203 yards in the first quarter as Tampa Bay cornerback Carlton Davis struggled to cover him.

Davis expects to fare much better in the high-stakes rematch.

“I’m going to bring the same mentality,” Davis said. “I’m always going to be myself. It didn’t work out the first game as far as what we did and our game plan, but we’ve corrected it and we’ve got a great game plan going in. But I’m going in with the same mentality and that’s to dominate.”

Davis, who had four regular-season interceptions this year, is one of the better players on a defensive unit that features linebackers Devin White (140 tackles, nine sacks) and Lavonte David (117 stops), elite pass rushers Jason Pierre-Paul (9.5 sacks) and Shaquil Barrett (eight sacks) and long-time run stuffer Ndamukong Suh (10.5 tackles for loss).

Brady also has talent to work with on offense, especially wide receivers Mike Evans (1,006 receiving yards) and Chris Godwin (840) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (623).

Pierre-Paul (knee) missed practice Wednesday while David (hamstring), safeties Jordan Whitehead (shoulder/knee) and Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) and receiver Antonio Brown (knee) were limited.

Kansas City running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle/hip) and Le’Veon Bell (knee) were limited as were receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) and cornerback Rashad Fenton (foot). Linebacker Willie Gay (ankle) sat out.

The Chiefs will be without left tackle Eric Fisher (Achilles) after he sustained a serious injury during the AFC title game against the Buffalo Bills. Mike Remmers will move from guard to start in place of Fisher.

Among other Kansas City standouts are Travis Kelce — who set a record for tight ends with 1,416 yards in the regular season — safety Tyrann Mathieu (six interceptions) and defensive end Chris Jones (7.5 sacks).

Meanwhile, Chiefs coach Andy Reid (age 62) is looking to become the oldest coach to win back-to-back Super Bowls while the 68-year-old Bruce Arians is looking to become the oldest to win a Super Bowl. New England’s Bill Belichick (66, two years ago) set that mark.

“I’m still part of the ‘Geritol Crew’ and we are a little bit older, and there is experience that comes with that and I guess they say wisdom with age,” Reid said this week. “By chance, a few of the older guys have gotten to this point. I attribute that to good players and then a little bit of experience there.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 31, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; A general view of signage for Super Bowl  LV at downtown Tampa Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl LV to have 25,000 fans, 30,000 cutouts

Super Bowl LV will have 25,000 fans and 30,000 cutouts in attendance at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday in Tampa, the NFL announced Tuesday morning.

That first number, which serves as the smallest audience in Super Bowl history, is still an increase over the 22,500 the league previously had stated would be in the stands. Among the crowd on hand will be 7,500 health-care workers who have received the vaccine for COVID-19 as guests of the NFL.

The decision to allow fans to attend Super Bowl LV was made in accordance with public health officials, the Florida Department of Health, and area hospitals and health care systems. Florida does not have an attendance limit for sporting events during the coronavirus pandemic.

Per an NFL spokesman, fans will be presented with masks and hand sanitizer prior to entering the game pitting the Buccaneers against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Fans will be required to wear the face coverings throughout the game.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians (L) and quarterback Tom Brady (12) talk prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady, Bruce Arians defying age in Super Bowl run

Bruce Arians and Tom Brady are comfortable being classified as old men this week as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempt to win the second Super Bowl in franchise history.

Arians would become the oldest head coach to win the Lombardi Trophy (68) and Brady (43 years, 188 days old on Super Bowl Sunday) the oldest quarterback to claim the championship.

“It’s not time to look in the rearview mirror yet,” Arians said Monday via Zoom. “We’re still looking ahead. We’ll look back this spring. Hopefully we’ll have a Lombardi Trophy on the way to look at and smile.”

Arians and the Buccaneers are at home for Super Bowl LV, the capper on a season the franchise began plotting the day after the 2019 regular season ended.

“I don’t think I could have ever prepared us for the pandemic,” Arians said. “The accountability of staying healthy, protecting each other. This team is really close at a time when it’s not easy to be close. It reminds be of the Super Bowl XL Steelers.”

Arians said Brady’s intelligence — not his age — has stood out since their contract agreement in March.

“If you don’t have it, you can’t be a great quarterback,” Arians said of Brady’s intelligence. “He’s an intense worker. Unbelievable preparation.”

Brady playing at his age is unique in its own right. But playing on this stage is unprecedented. He said Monday his daily approach, and making only decisions that benefit his career, has been essential to his own vitality.

He’s 18 years, 45 days older than Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes as of Sunday, and Brady believes quarterbacks might be able to prolong their career by following his lead.

“Anything is possible. Not many people have played at my age,” Brady said Monday. “I’m hoping that I can give some of that wisdom to some of the younger players who want to do the same type of thing. We’re always supposed to be better as we grow and evolve. It wasn’t about 40 touchdowns it was about, ‘Did I do the best I could do?’ That’s where my motivation comes from.”

“It’s part of my daily life. It’s pretty well documented the approach I’ve taken over a period of time. How I work out, how I recover is very important to me.”

Arians said he’s been “very, very lucky” as a coach to have Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer and Brady as pupils. He joked his philosophy is “only take jobs with good quarterbacks.”

After nine Super Bowl appearances and six wins with the New England Patriots, Brady repeated his refrain that playing in the Super Bowl is the goal to start every season.

“Six days to go, one game left. I’m excited to see what we can come up with for Sunday,” Brady said.

Brady shook off hints that he might be done with the NFL this week. When asked if he would consider playing beyond age 45, Brady smiled.

“Yeah, definiltely,” he said, adding he told his dad he would “play until I suck.”

–Field Level Media