Ladies and gentlemen, the 2021 NFL season is just hours away! The defending World Champs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are taking on America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys, Thursday night September 9th at 8:20 P.M at the Raymond James stadium.
How can the Dallas Cowboys, who went 6-10 in the 2020 NFL season almost dead last in a painful to watch NFC East Division manage a victory on the road against Tom Brady and ALL 22 starters from Super Bowl LV?
General Manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jason Licht, pulled off the unthinkable by maneuvering and restructuring contracts including 8th year wide receiver Mike Evans, to be the first franchise to return all 22 starters after hoisting the Lombardi.
Tom Brady has a full year in the Byron Leftwich system as he enters his 22nd season as an NFL quarterback. 7 national titles, 5 league MVPs awards, and 4 Super Bowl MVP’s, which makes for the strongest case for the greatest of all time.
“I feel good,” said Brady. “I feel like we have a great opportunity ahead of us and anytime you start the season and it’s the first game of the year, it’s pretty exciting.”
This will be Brady’s first packed stadium as a Buccaneer. The global pandemic in the 2020 season, led to a quiet and eerie coming out party for Brady at the Mercedes-Benz dome in New Orleans.
“I know the stadium will be packed”, added Tom “and it will be an exciting night for all of us. We worked pretty hard to get to this point and now we’re through all the physical prep.”
Adding to the preparation, the Buccaneers simulated crowd noise during practice this week to prepare for a packed Raymond James Stadium that has been sold out since the month of June!
“Really good. It’s great to have it”, commented Head Coach Bruce Arians, “We actually practiced both sides of it today. The Cowboys travel well and there’s always a scenario where we could have to use it. We’re prepared. Noise is never an excuse.”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have announced new Covid protocols at Raymond James Stadium for the 2021 season, which include the discontinuation of temperature screenings. Wearing a mask will no longer be mandatory but strongly encouraged regardless of vaccination status. Raymond James Stadium is expected to host over 65,000 fans on game days.
The Buccaneers announced on Monday that defensive linemen, Ndamukong Suh, has been activated from the Covid list. Suh played all 20 games for the Buccaneers last season and recorded 44 tackles with 6 sacks and was crucial in Super Bowl LV. Rookie kicker Jose Borregales was waived to make room for veteran kicker Ryan Succop but was announced Wednesday morning that Tampa was signing Borregales to the practice squad.
“Alright, the only person out is Jordan Whitehead.” Explained Coach Arians in the Buccaneers last practice. “Everybody else is ready to roll. We had some ‘vet days’ today like we always do. The physical preparation is over. Now it’s all mental from here to the ballgame – still a lot of work to do.”
Buccaneers safety, Jordan Whitehead, has been dealing with a hamstring injury since the start of training camp and will not be available for the season opener. Mike Edwards is likely to step in alongside safety Antoine Winfield Jr and corner back turned safety, Ross Cockrell. So no break in the secondary for Dak there.
“Ross has had a hell of a camp”, said Arians “and obviously made the transition easily for us. Mike is a ballhawk. So, I’m very, very comfortable with where we’re at there.”
The Cowboys, on the other hand, received a positive Covid test from veteran right guard, Zack Martin. Martin was the 16th overall pick for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014 and is a key piece to that offensive line and will not be available Thursday night in Tampa. Jerry Jones refuses to completely rule out Martin and released a statement during the ESPN program ‘First Take’ that if Zack can pass two Covid tests by Thursday night he will be available. Not likely Jerry.
Dak Prescott will need all the protection he can get Thursday night since he has not taken a game time snap since falling to a devastating season ending ankle injury in week 5 of the 2020 season. It’s almost unlucky to face the best defense in the NFL on your first day back. In addition to having two ankle surgeries, Prescott experienced a shoulder strain during training camp in his right arm that kept him sidelined for all of preseason. Despite the unfortunate year with injury, Prescott is still considered an elite quarterback throwing for over 1,800 yards in just over 4 matchups in 2020. During the offseason, Jerry Jones signed the Mississippi state quarterback to a monster $160 million 4-year deal that elevated Prescott to the highest paid QB per season in the league.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys have had week 1 matchups twice before, with Tampa winning in Dallas in 2001 and the Cowboys getting revenge in 2009. As Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. takes on the no risk-it no biscuit mentality, Bruce Arians and his Bucs plans to “Go for 2!”