Two Tampa Bay Buccaneers skill players choosing to workout with quarterback Tom Brady instead of attending voluntary team workouts didn’t sit well with head coach Bruce Arians.
Arians expressed clear displeasure about running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn choosing a workout with Brady, but the coach tempered his unhappiness about wide receiver Tyler Johnson’s decisions to work with Brady instead. Brady began throwing sessions last week with Bucs receivers in lieu of OTAs.
Regarding Vaughn, Arians “hopes he can make a better decision Wednesday” according to Greg Auman of The Athletic. Auman noted that Vaughn participated in OTAs last week and that the Bucs only had new running back Giovanni Bernard on Tuesday.
Arians said Johnson is “not (a) d——” for choosing to catch passes from Brady and added “I might be with Tom, too” according to Auman.
Arians, who wasn’t happy with OTA participation numbers overall, said “there are some who seemingly don’t realize they have to fight for their roster spots” according to Auman. Brady’s workout consisted of 10-12 players per Auman.
Vaughn and Johnson played for the Bucs in last season’s Super Bowl run, and both saw postseason snaps. For Arians, that means little for the 2021 season as he said in March “this is a new football team” during a press conference.
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Did Vaughn Drop the Ball?
Vaughn came to the Bucs in 2020 as a third-round draft pick, known for his pass-catching ability. Arians expressed confidence in the former Vanderbilt back though he saw limited snaps in 2020, finishing with 109 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving plus a touchdown.
“With an offseason, he’s going to have a really (good) breakout year also,” Arians said told the media in March.
Things looked up for Vaughn with his participation in OTAs last week, too, though Arians wanted to see improvement in Vaughn’s pass catching.
“We talked about that a little bit today – catching the ball off-balance,” Arians told the media after the May 25 OTA practice per Buccaneers.com’s Scott Smith. “Twisting, turning, working on his hips, getting a little more flexible so he can catch some balls behind him, because he’s got really good hands. Just little things like that. He’s got great vision. We’ve always loved him as a runner so it’s just a matter of continuing to improve as a pass receiver.”
Arians’ concern about Vaughn’s attendance on Tuesday also can’t be overlooked as the Bucs already have a deep backfield with Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette, Bernard, C.J. Prosise, and Troymaine Pope.
Though Arians expressed understanding about Johnson joining Brady’s workout, the coach has clearly articulated how competitive position battles will be.
The Bucs added speedy wide receiver Jaelon Darden in the draft former West Virginia standout T.J. Simmons as an undrafted free agent. That’s on top of a deep position group with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller, Jaydon Mickens, Josh Pearson, Justin Watson, Travis Johnson, and Cyril Grayson.
Johnson posted 12 receptions, 169 yards and two touchdowns in 2020 as a fifth-round pick from Minnesota. He also caught two passes in the playoffs, including a key third-down grab at New Orleans.
His flashes of brilliance in 2020 won’t guarantee anything for 2021 in Arians’ camp though.