When Tristan Wirfs found out he would become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, he likely had the same thoughts most rookies had. Thoughts about what it meant for his future, his families future, and of course getting set to head to his new city for the first batch of rookie workouts and exposure to the NFL.
While Wirfs and every other first-round pick had the unique experience of watching the NFL commissioner announce their selection from his basement, it turns out the draft’s adjustments were just the first in what’s been an unprecedented off-season.
So how has Wirfs coped with the past three months waiting for his first chance to really feel like an NFL player? Speaking to the media on Friday, the Iowa Hawkeyes standout has been focusing on his craft, while waiting to show off his skills.
“The last three months have been good,” Wirfs said. “I moved down to Tampa on June 6 - just kind of wanted to get acclimiated to the heat a little bit, then I was able to train. There’s a field down here, it’s called Skyway Park. I was able to traing over there and get my runnin in [and] get some drills in with a couple of my teammates. That was a lot of fun - that was good. Now, just getting things rolling - it’s exciting.”
Excitement. No matter the circumstances or the delays in camps and training sessions, a rookie’s first year is filled with it. Excitement to get working, to step onto the NFL stage for the first time, win their first game, score their first touchdown. Well, the last one might take a minute for Wirfs, if he ever gets to experience it at all.
Something he won’t have to wait long for is top shelf competition. To kick-off the 2020 NFL Season, and to start Wirfs’ professional football career, the Bucs will travel to “The Big Easy” for a match-up which will be anything but.
Compounding the difficulty facing Tampa Bay in the contest will be the fact it’s the first time this new-look offense faces truly live competition. An absence of preseason and how it impacts preparing for the real games is something Wirfs remains excited about, saying,
“It’ll be different for sure not having presesason games. I don’t really know how much different it’ll be for me coming from college - we didn’t really have preseason games. We just had camp and then started playing. They were non-conference [games], but still. This time around - I know we have some good pass-rushers on the Bucs, so just getting some work in with them and doing the best I can. If the case is that I’m going against Cam Jordan, I’ll be excited. [I will] just give it my best.”
Speaking of Jordan, the Saints’ elite pass rusher is going to cause problems for any Buccaneers offensive lineman unfortunate enough to have to lock up against him. While Wirfs hasn’t quite gotten into studying the intricacies of each defensive opponent, he has a firm grasp of the task ahead of him blocking for future Hall of Famer, Tom Brady.
“I haven’t been watching so much tape on individual guys yet,” Wirfs said. He continued by saying, “...I’m not really looking at a guy’s specific rushes yet - we haven’t even put the pads on. At the same time, when that time comes, I’m going to have to get pretty detailed in my preparation. To protect a guy like Tom [Brady] is a pretty big deal.”
Of course, the inevitable question about meeting the greatest quarterback of all-time came up, and the story was remarkably unremarkable.
“The first time I met him, we were just coming around a corner and met each other. He said, ‘What’s up, big dog?’ I thought it was kind of crazy because he’s Tom Brady. Then he asked me how old I was and I told him 21, and he kind of started laughing. He said something like, ‘You think you have experience? I’ve got double your experience.’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ That’s really about it. I waved to him when he was leaving the other day. He seems really nice. I’m excited to get to be his teammate.”
It’s true, Brady has been around Wirfs’ entire life, times two. And it’s good to see that even with everything going, there are still enough moments for the football fan in Tampa Bay’s first-round pick to show himself. Even NFL players get star-struck it would seem.
Typically, given how many snaps the rookies would have taken by now - more than 400 according to head coach Bruce Arians - the first year jitters would have subsided a little by now. These are different days though, and in just over a month’s time, Wirfs and all of his teammates are going to have to work with Brady to go from awe-struck fans, to battle ready teammates.
Step one is getting into the building and meeting each other. So it’s good to see those things are starting to take place.