Tampa Bay didn’t just get healthier with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady taking off his knee sleeve last week at training camp.
Both tight end O.J. Howard and safety Jordan Whitehead made their debuts at camp late in the week after returning from significant injuries — Howard’s being a season-ending Achilles injury from 2020. Whitehead came off the COVID-19/reserve list but also had recovery a shoulder injury in the playoffs this offseason.
Star wide receiver Antonio Brown also got going again full speed on July 30 after limited participation per Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times. Brown sustained a knee injury in the playoffs and had surgery.
Tampa also got safety Antoine Winfield Jr. back on the field last week after false positive COVID-19 test per Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith. Winfield started practicing again on July 27.
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Brady Thrilled About Howard’s Return
Brady was particularly happy with Howard’s return. Howard caught 11 receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns before an Achilles tendon injury ended his season in Week 5.
“I love having (Howard) back,” Brady said per Knight on July 30.
Howard put on a helmet for the first time at camp on July 30 and practiced in pads on July 31. Brady found Howard on a “nice vertical sideline throw” for a “big gain” per Knight and Pewter Report.
Howard showed improvement during the spring but didn’t practice right away when training camp opened on July 25.
“He looks good,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said on July 30 per Knight. “He’s ready to go.”
Brady now hopes to see another injured tight end, Cameron Brate, return soon, too.
“We’d love to have Cam back at some point, kind of see when everyone kind of comes together, what we can make of it,” Brady said per Knight. “Just kind of want to … communicate with the guys that you’re familiar with. And it also gives other guys opportunities, too.”
Brown looked like himself as he caught a touchdown on July 30 in practice and “dunked on the goal post” per ESPN’s Jenna Laine. He hauled in another touchdown from Brady in a two-minute drill on July 31 per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
“He’s coming along good; he’s getting in shape,” Arians said about Brown on July 30 per Knight.
Whitehead, Winfield Impressive in Return
Whitehead missed Super Bowl celebration festivities before camp but got back on the field in time for the first practice in pads.
The Bucs activated Whitehead from the COVID-19 reserve list on July 30 after being sidelined on July 23 per Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper. Whitehead missed the Bucs’ visit to the Whitehouse on July 20 and Super Bowl ring ceremony on July 22.
Whitehead, who started all 16 games last season, made his presence felt on July 31 practicing with the first-stringers per Greg Auman of The Athletic. Whitehead broke up a pass from Brady to rookie wide receiver Jaelon Darden in the red zone per Laine.
The fourth-year safety also covered Howard on another incompletion by Brady per Laine.
Winfield missed one practice due to the false positive test and likewise made plays on the field in his return. He broke up a goal-line pass to wide receiver Jaydon Mickens and covered Brown tough on another pass on July 28 per Pewter Report.
Bucs Waive Backup Safety
With Whitehead back on the roster, the Bucs waived safety Augie Contressa on July 30 per Alper.
Contressa joined the Bucs as an undrafted free agent from Stony Brook in May. He was one of two Bucs defensive backs from Stony Brook — the other being Chris Cooper.
The Bucs signed Cooper on July 25, which filled the final roster spot for training camp per Carmen Vitali of Buccaneers.com. Cooper previously participated on practice squads with four other NFL teams since 2018. The Indianapolis Colts originally signed him before he landed on practice squads for the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, and Kansas City Chiefs.