Bucs Coach Believes Team Is Healthiest It’s Been Since OTAs

Tom Brady

Getty Tom Brady and Byron Leftwich talk over the offense in a 2022 game.

There appears to be a common mindset for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers heading into their January 16 wild-card showdown against the Dallas Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium: health, resiliency and starting fresh in the postseason.

“This is probably as healthy as we’ve been really since OTAs [organized team activities] – we were banged up in OTAs. It’s good to have our guys out there,” Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said during a January 11 press conference.

He noted the overall health of the team back on September 11, when they defeated the Cowboys 19-3 to start the season.

“Health,” Leftwich. “Health started there. You cut the tape on and you realize we lost [Donovan Smith] in that game, and you’re like, ‘Man, it started in Week 1, really.’ Then [Aaron] Stinnie [in preseason] — all those things happened right around each other.”


Ever since Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen suffered a knee injury early on in training camp, the Bucs’ offensive line has had to make do with several different combinations of players.

When Leftwich was asked about Jensen’s status against the Cowboys, he directed reporters to the head coach.

“I’ll let Todd [Bowles] answer that question,” he said.

This Bucs Team Is a Resilient Group

The Bucs faced their fair share of adversity during their 8-9 regular season, but members of the Bucs organization believe the adversity has proved that the team stays together when things got tough.

“It was everybody staying together,” said Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans during his January 11 press conference. “We’ve been through tough times together, so we know how each other responds to moments like that. We’ve been doing it all year. Our division helped us out – it was a low division this year as far as record. But we got the job done to punch our ticket.”

Linebacker Lavonte David mentioned during his January 11 press conference that Evans is one of players who “lead the ship” in the locker room.

“It goes back to what you said – lead the ship. I always say, ‘When things are going [well], anybody can step up and talk, but it’s the people who step up and bring guys along when stuff is going bad.’ I think we’ve got a lot of guys in that locker room that are like that,” David said. “Mike is one of those guys.”

Another name David mentioned when talking about leadership was Bucs quarterback Tom Brady.

“His career is already set, he’s already a Hall of Famer – but the way he carried himself, coming to work even through the hard times, being the leader that he is, smiling with everybody, just being Tom. He never changed,” added David. “That’s why he’s our leader.”

Playoffs Offer a Fresh Start

Another word that commonly appeared at press conferences was “new.”

After what many members of the organization would consider a disappointing 8-win season, the start of the NFL postseason essentially turns the playoffs into a brand new season of its own.

So much so that the Bucs have given themselves a visual reminder of the reset mindset approach they want to take into the playoffs.

“Whatever happened in the regular season doesn’t matter – it’s a whole new season,” David said. “We’ve got it in the locker room on the board, it’s a new season. We want to go 1-0 in this season and that’s the goal.”

One thing about the postseason that stands out to Leftwich was just how new the experience was for the younger players on this Bucs team when their journey to the Super Bowl began back in 2020 against the Washington Football Team.

“It was all new to us at the time,” said Leftwich. “Those moments are coming for your team, so when you go through them, you face them, you stand tall through them and you come out through them – it’s always beneficial for your team.”

One player who doesn’t see a whole of new scenarios in the sport of football is quarterback Tom Brady, which helps give this team confidence heading into playoffs.

“The last of my worries, really, is Tom,” said Leftwich. “When you get in these moments, it’s [about] making sure we’re good around him.”