For Brady, returning to Raymond James Stadium is about bringing a hurricane-ravaged region together in addition to football. The NFL approved the final decision on the location, and the Bucs announced it on Thursday, September 29. Both Tampa city officials and the Bucs differed to the league on the decision, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
“Happy were able to head home for Sunday night, but so many people in Florida won’t be able to do the same,” Brady tweeted on Thursday. “I’ll be making a donation to the Florida Disaster Fund to get things started, and I’m hoping the rest of the NFL family in our state will follow suit.”
“Our neighbors support us endlessly, it’s time to return the favor,” Brady added.
Brady, who began his NFL career in 2000, played through 9/11 and Katrina, though not in the markets where those historic events occurred. With that said, Brady recalled in his “Man in the Arena” documentary about how his former team, the New England Patriots, embraced representing America after the terrorist attacks in 2001. Brady and the Bucs could have a similar moment for Tampa and much of Florida on October 2.
“I always feel like sports have brought people together over a long period of time,” Brady told reporters on Thursday before the announcement. “Watching different adversities — whether it was 9/11, whether that was [Hurricane] Katrina — sports have an amazing way of kind of healing wounds and bringing people together and bringing communities together, something to cheer for, a common interest, a common good.”
“I think anytime you can participate in something like that it’s a great feeling,” Brady said. “I know it means a lot for us to have the opportunity to go out and play for our fans always, but after what so many people have gone through in the state it’s great to go out there and give them something to cheer about.”
Mike Evans: ‘Hopefully We Can Be a Bright Spot’
Bucs receiver Mike Evans, who returns from a one-game suspension, concurs about the opportunity to uplift people in the region. Evans, a Houston native, has been involved in hurricane relief efforts before following Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
“I definitely wanted to be at the home opener,” Evans told the media on Thursday before the announcement. “I’m happy that I get to go out there and entertain. It’s a blessing and I don’t take it for granted. I know we’re going through a tough time right now, so hopefully we can be a bright spot during this time.”
Leonard Fournette: ‘I Know How Serious It Is’
Bucs running back Leonard Fournette lived through Hurricane Katrina as a child in New Orleans. The former LSU star can relate to what many in the region now face.
“At the time, I was a kid and didn’t really understand how serious the situation was. Now, as an adult with my own kids, I’m older and I understand the seriousness of the whole situation,” Fournette told reporters on Wednesday, September 28. “[There’s] not too many memories I really think about — I leave it in the past. It happened and it’s part of my journey. I know how serious it is, I know how it can turn for the worse.”