Due to the prevalence of COVID-19, the Buccaneers went the duration of training camp in 2020 without seeing their fans. They then played much of the season in front of a limited number of fans. Even the crowd for a Super Bowl victory on their home field—while bigger than crowds during the regular season—still couldn’t be what it should’ve been.
Fast forward to Sunday morning at the AdventHealth Training Center, the site of Tampa Bay’s first training camp practice of the summer. With season pass members permitted to attend, the atmosphere was raucous and, as a result, refreshing. The fans were back, and it was noticeable.
From the jump, there was chanting. There were the standard chants of Tampa Bay and “B-u-c-c-a-n-e-e-r-s. Go Bucs!” before shouts for individual players began. Of course, there was plenty of love for seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady as he enters year two in Tampa Bay:
Fans are riled up and then a “Brady! Brady! Brady!” chant breaks out. The champs are back. pic.twitter.com/UMrd5kqdNX— Bucs Nation (@Bucs_Nation) July 25, 2021
Never mind that it was the first day of camp and the team was only in shorts and helmets. Every catch—and even every drop—from a receiver drew a reaction. The crowd went crazy as rookie Jaelon Darden impressed. One fan called out to tell Ali Marpet his hair was looking great. The cheers for the regulars such as Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller and Rob Gronkowski were plenty loud as well. And then there was the love for Mike Evans, who had his name chanted throughout the morning and at one point jumped the barrier on the sideline after making a catch to get up close and personal while celebrating with the fans.
Mike Evans just caught a pass and jumped the barricade to celebrate with the fans, who were obviously loving it— Bucs Nation (@Bucs_Nation) July 25, 2021
Evans, who is entering his eighth season with the Bucs, spoke with reporters after practice and made sure to mention how different of a feel training camp has this season thanks to the return of fans.
Mike Evans has been to 7 previous Buccaneer training camps but says this one feels different because fans are back and now they’re cheering for a team that has turned the program around.— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) July 25, 2021
Training camp is always one of the first signs that football is back. But as exciting as the on-field aspects of Sunday morning might’ve been, it was the return of fans that stole the show. After missing out on camp in 2020, it was clear that those in attendance on Sunday were thrilled to be back among their fellow fans, watching the defending champions go to work.
After the last year and a half, having the sights and sounds of a regular training camp made things feel normal. It was certainly a hot morning, but the buzz persisted. The chants, the cheers, the popsicles being passed out in the stands, Bruce Arians being met with a loud “Bruuuuuuce” when he pulled his golf cart near the sideline—there was something refreshing about all of it. And the best part is, it’s only a fraction of what’s to come when full-capacity crowds are expected to be back inside Raymond James Stadium this fall.
Football is back. Fans are back. It’s a good day, Bucs Nation.