Tom Brady Gets Honest on Future Without Ryan Jensen

Tom Brady

Getty Tom Brady voiced his thoughts on the Buccaneers' transition from injured center Ryan Jensen to backup Robert Hainsey.

Tom Brady gave a vote of confidence and caution when talking about taking snaps from Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Robert Hainsey after the loss of Ryan Jensen.

Jensen, a 2021 Pro Bowler, injured his knee on the second day of training camp on July 28, and he could miss months of action before returning. The Bucs turned to Hainsey, a second-year offensive lineman, who went in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

“He’s worked really hard,” Brady said about Hainsey in a Monday, August 1 press conference. “Obviously everyone’s heartbroken with what happened to Ryan, so that will take a little time, but [Hainsey’s] gotta ya know, step into the job and do a great job. He’s worked hard last year, really gained the trust of a lot of people, and he’s got to go earn it.”

“So like all of us, it’s not what you did, how hard you worked in the offseason, it’s how good of a football player are you. It’s to be determined for all of us,” Brady added.

Hainsey isn’t a lock for the starting center job. Fellow lineman Nick Leverett, a 2020 undrafted free agent, could also vie for the job according to Bucs head coach Todd Bowles.

“It will be between Hainsey and Nick Leverett right now,” Bowles said in a July 29 press conference. “Both of them have played it. It will be a tough battle going in. Both of them are very smart, both are very tough. It’s better to happen now than in the middle of the season so these guys can get some practice reps and prepare for it. I think either one of them will be fine.”

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Experience Lacking for Bucs

Hainsey and Leverett notably have little NFL experience — 31 career snaps for Hainsey and 60 snaps for Leverett. Hainsey also had 35 snaps on special teams last season.

Due to their inexperience, speculation arose that the Bucs could pursue a free agent such as J.C. Tretter. Heavy’s Matt Lombardo reported that Matt Paradis, Luke Juriga, and Jon Halapio could also be free agent targets for the Bucs.

Bowles maintained that his team will look to Hainsey and Leverett first, but he acknowledged the free agent route remains a possibility.

“We’re not sure of anything yet,” Bowles told the media on July 29. “We’ve been in shorts and T-shirts. That will work itself out as training camp goes, and depending on how that works out, we’ll see if we go outside of the house or not.”

More Confidence in Hainsey

On Monday, Bowles liked how Hainsey looked in practice with the first team offense.

“He was fine. He practiced against them all last year. He’s not going to get any better work than Vita [Vea] and Akiem [Hicks], so…you know, he might face a quicker guy, but he won’t face a stronger guy,” Bowles told reporters. “So, he’s getting good reps right now. We’ll have him ready.”

Hainsey likewise expressed confidence as he looks to take on a starting role and at a position he didn’t play all the time at Notre Dame. He mainly played tackle, but the Bucs drafted him with his versatility in mind according to Greg Auman of The Athletic.

“There’s things you can and cannot control. [Being a backup] was one thing that I couldn’t control,” Hainsey told reporters on July 29. “All I could control was how I came out every day, prepared to improve and get better and help the team. I thought I did everything I could to do that. With the way things were last year, I don’t think I’d really change anything. I think it led me to where I am now: prepared, ready, comfortable and in a good spot.”