Bucs Veteran Makes Fitting Statement About Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Getty Tom Brady's comeback keeps leading to more Buccaneers players' returns in free agency.

Upon Tom Brady‘s retirement in February, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end and special teams regular Pat O’Connor gave WGN a fitting description of what Brady meant to the team.

“He’s the dad of the team,” O’Connor told WGN in February. “Everyone respected everything he said.”

“He’s an elite leader,” O’Connor said about Brady, 44. “Just the way he presents himself on and off the field, it kind of makes you want to emulate him in a way, so it kind of makes you be a great person and motivates you to be a great person.”

After the “dad of the team” unretired on March 13, multiple Bucs free agents have followed Brady back to Tampa Bay since. O’Connor became the 12th to re-sign with the Bucs on Tuesday, April 12, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic. The other re-signed free agents include starters Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette, Ryan Jensen, and Carlton Davis.

“Happy to be back baby. Let’s go Bucs,” O’Connor said in a video.

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O’Connor Key to Bucs Special Teams

Bringing back O’Connor means the Bucs retain its most versatile and reliable special teams player.

O’Connor’s “led the team in special teams snaps” last season, Auman wrote, in addition to playing snaps at defensive end. The fourth-year veteran “was one of only two players to play snaps on all six phases of special teams this year,” NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero wrote. O’Connor’s “best contributions will be as a do-it-all on special teams” but can “help out as DL depth whenever they need it,” Auman wrote.

Tampa Bay didn’t offer O’Connor an exclusive-rights free agent tender in March before free agency according to Pelissero, but the Bucs ultimately re-signed him on Tuesday. The team previously tendered O’Connor in 2021. He made  $920,000 with the Bucs last season per Over the Cap.

O’Connor’s 2021 season got cut short with a knee injury, which happened in the Dec. 19, 2021, game against New Orleans. He missed the final three games of the season and the playoffs. ESPN’s Adam Schefter initially reported that O’Connor “tore his PCL and partial MCL” according to doctors.

“I’m grinding. I’m getting right. Just day by day. Hit the PT as hard as I could, you know, do everything I could that could slingshot my career in the upward direction, so I’m just locked in trying to get as good as possible as I can,” O’Connor told WGN in February about his recovery.

How O’Connor’s Career Revived in Tampa

Detroit drafted O’Connor in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Easter Michigan. He had 166 tackles and 20 sacks for EMU. The Lions cut him in September 2017, which led him to the Bucs via the practice squad that year, and he played in 40 career games since.

O’Connor played in three games for 2017 but spent the 2018 season on the Bucs practice squad. He then played in eight games for 2019 followed by increased special teams duties during the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

He has 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks in his career. His first career sack didn’t come until the 2020 season against the Minnesota Vikings.

VideoVideo related to bucs veteran makes fitting statement about tom brady2022-04-12T15:29:34-04:00

“It’s been a long four years coming,” O’Connor told the media in the December 2020 press conference. “It was the best feeling ever to be honest. I haven’t had one in so long but all this work that I put in leading up to this made it worth it.”

O’Connor has played 146 defensive snaps and 843 special teams plays in his career.

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