If and when superstar quarterback Tom Brady returns to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he will see a much different-looking offensive line protecting him.
Left guard Aaron Stinnie, who is competing for a starting job, injured his knee and rode cart off the field during a 13-3 preseason loss to the Tennessee Titans. Bucs head coach Todd Bowles said he will know more about Stinnie’s injury following x-rays.
Potentially losing a second starter caliber lineman for an extended period of time, deals a blow to Brady’s protection. The Bucs first lost center Ryan Jensen to a knee injury on July 28, and he’s anticipated to at least miss several months of the season.
In addition, Bucs starting tackle Tristan Wirfs also sustained an oblique injury during joint practices against the Titans. Wirfs could miss the Week 1 regular season game at Dallas, depending on how long recovery takes. Greg Auman of The Athletic reported that the Bucs have “no word on how long” Wirfs could be out.
Among linemen stepping in, things didn’t look more promising with rookie guard Luke Goedeke when he took Stinnie’s place against the Titans. A second-round pick, Goedeke didn’t overly impress Bowles though non one else in the trenches at Nashville did either.
“I’ve got to see the tape,” Bowles said about Goedeke. “It looked like we couldn’t move the ball at all, regardless of who was in there.”
All of this adds up to arguably the Bucs’ biggest problem — protecting Brady if or when he returns from an excused absence. That’s the way ESPN’s Dianna Russini sees it as she highlighted the drastic changes to the interior of the offensive line since the 2021 season. The Bucs lost guard Alex Cappa to free agency and fellow guard Ali Marpet to retirement.
“This is everything for this Bucs team. They need to protect Tom Brady, and this is the area that is very weak right now and has to improve,” Russini said on ESPN’s “Get Up” on August 18. “It’s something teams around the league are looking at, watching [and] hoping to take advantage.”
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Decimated Offensive Line a Dealbreaker for Brady?
Offensive line health could count among the plethora of reasons why Brady could be away from the team for personal reasons. Speculation has ranged from retiring again to participating in “The Masked Singer” this fall.
Bowles and general Jason Licht called Brady’s absence planned and not concerning on August 11. They expect Brady to return after the Titans game. Bucs linebacker Devin White affirmed that the team knows what’s going on though he mentioned Brady is dealing with “personal problems” in contrast to statements from Bowles and Licht.
Bowles then alluded to not knowing when Brady will return during a press conference after a joint practice with the Titans on August 18.
Change of Course on Brady Absence
Bowles changed course on August 19 in talking with Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times that he knows “exactly” when Brady will return.
“Do I look worried?” Bowles said with a smile according to Stroud. “I’m not worried, so I don’t know why anyone else would be worried”
“I know exactly when Tom is coming back, and I’ve consistently said it would be sometime after the Titans game,” Bowles added.
Bucs defensive back Logan Ryan said on the Outkick 360 podcast that Bowles addressed Brady’s absence from the team. Ryan expressed certitude that Brady will return but couldn’t give details.
“I can’t put out no official statements,” Ryan said on the show.
I heard the rumor about the Masked Singer. If it is true, then bet against the Buc’s for the postseason. Brady is just in things for the money and perqs, and is raking them in where he finds them. (That isn’t throwing shade, he is entitled imho, but he is not making a serious run at anything but the bank and a post-football career).