The 2020 NFL season has long felt like the season that would never arrive. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted what we all have come to know as “normal,” and as a result, there was a time where it really did seem that football may not go on as scheduled this fall. Of course, with something like a pandemic going on, there are more important things to worry about. But if you’re a football fan, you’d surely like NFL Sundays to be one thing that stayed relatively normal in what has been a difficult year.
Now, if you’re a Buccaneers fan, you can probably take that last statement and turn it up a few notches. Because, as the NFL continued with business as usual in the offseason (or, as close to business as usual as it could get), Tampa Bay had its biggest offseason ever. It started innocently enough, with the team ensuring that Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul stayed on board. But from there, things got wild.
The Bucs went out and signed Tom Brady away from New England, where the G.O.A.T. had spent the first 20 years of his storied career. Then, before the NFL Draft, they traded for Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to join Brady in the Bay. Ndamukong Suh eventually re-signed on another one-year deal. Then came an intriguing draft class and the addition of LeSean McCoy for good measure. With all of these moves, it’s no wonder the Bucs have become one of the most-talked-about teams in the league in just a few short months.
So, yeah. No one can blame Bucs fans in particular for badly wanting the NFL to successfully pull off a season amid a pandemic. And while it seemed improbable and certainly questionable for a while, there’s some good news.
We’re almost there.
The Bucs have been back at the AdventHealth Training Center for two weeks now. And on Monday, they’ll have their first padded practice of the season. Things look different, of course, with no fans in attendance at camp and limited media access. But we’re inching a little closer to it feeling like football season. And after a long wait, it’s a great feeling.
In any other year, it would have been feeling like football season for weeks by now. We would’ve already had weeks of camp to talk about and the preseason opener would have already passed. But for the last week or two, I kept thinking about how it really wasn’t feeling like football season. It still seemed like something that was way off in the distance.
That was until just a few days ago. Something clicked and I suddenly realized: Football is less than a month away. It’s really that close.
It still doesn’t truly feel like it’s all the way here, at least to me. But the Bucs are back to practicing in pads. The league’s season opener is three weeks from Thursday. Tampa Bay’s season opener is only a few days after that. Personally, I’m getting there. Hopefully you are too, Bucs Nation. Because, if things go as planned for the NFL and the Buccaneers especially, we’re in for a crazy, thrilling ride.