For any rookie, adjusting to the NFL has to be loads easier when there are veterans around to help you along the way. Buccaneers right tackle Tristan Wirfs, drafted 13th overall in this year’s draft, is finding that out.
With COVID-19 affecting the offseason, Wirfs didn’t get a rookie mini camp or OTAs to ease his way into life as a pro. He isn’t even getting preseason exhibitions to dip his toes in the water. Instead, he’s having to jump right into the regular season with nothing but training camp to prepare him. Well, nothing but training camp and his fellow offensive linemen, that is.
Speaking with the media after Friday’s team scrimmage at Raymond James Stadium, the former Iowa Hawkeye mentioned left tackle Donovan Smith as someone who has helped him along greatly so far:
RT Tristan Wirfs said LT Donovan Smith will check in with him throughout practice and gives him tips and advice. "Donnie has definitely taken me under his wing ... He's been a lot of help."— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) August 28, 2020
Smith, who was a second-round pick in 2015, has seen plenty throughout his years in the league that is surely paying off in the form of advice for his young teammate. It’s always great when a veteran is willing to lend time to an up-and-comer, and it sounds like it’s helping Wirfs as he continues to dive head-first into the thick of things.
Wirfs has been taking reps with the first-team offensive line since the start of camp, and it seems likely now that he may just open up the regular season in two weeks as Tampa Bay’s starter at right tackle. With that seeming to be a strong possibility, it’s good to hear that he has developed a rapport with Alex Cappa, who will start next to him at right guard:
Bucs rookie T Tristan Wirfs, who is running first-team at right tackle, says he has a good chemistry with right guard Alex Cappa and that Cappa has helped him a lot.— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) August 28, 2020
Cappa, whose first year as a starter came just last year, surely has plenty of fresh lessons and knowledge to offer his new partner on the right side of the line. But more than that, the fact that the two have come together and found some chemistry is good news for Tampa Bay.
With the Bucs set to kick things off in New Orleans two weeks from Sunday, all signs seem to be pointing toward Tampa Bay’s rookie right tackle jumping right in to help protect Tom Brady from the get-go. There hasn’t been any reason to doubt that, anyway, despite the crazy circumstances that this unusual offseason has brought on. Just this week, Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich had good things to say about Wirfs, things that may very well indicate how the coaching staff is feeling about him with the season right around the corner:
OC Byron Leftwich said first-year LT Tristan Wirfs is having a good camp. "The best thing I can say about Tristan is that you don't say his name all that much," he laughs. "That's a beautiful thing as a rookie offensive lineman."— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) August 27, 2020
That’s pretty high praise, as most offensive linemen only get their names called by coaches when they miss an assignment or get beat in their matchups. Most fans do the same thing, as the guys up front are rarely the focus when things are going well. So, if Wirfs does get the start against the Saints in Week 1 and we don’t hear his name all that much, things will be in pretty good shape.
One thing we do know is that Wirfs’ development and ability to adjust quickly to the NFL will have plenty to do with his own talent and hard work, of course, but it will also have been influenced by the help of his teammates along the o-line.