Jan 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady posts about ‘gratitude’ while mulling future

Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady took to social media on Tuesday but fell short of communicating what his plans are for the 2022 season.

While Brady is under contract for 2022, there’s speculation that he might call it a career.

“I understand that at this stage in my career, there is going to be interest in my future whenever a season ends, but this week, all that is on my mind is the gratitude I have for this team and the fans that have supported us all year long,” Brady posted to Instagram on Tuesday.

The Bucs’ season ended Sunday in the NFC divisional round with their loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Head coach Bruce Arians said Monday that Brady will “take all the time he needs” to decide whether to return for a 23rd season.

Brady led the league with 5,316 yards passing, 43 touchdowns and a league-record 485 completions this past season.

“I always want to win, I think that’s pretty apparent by now, but that doesn’t mean I equate losing to failure, especially when you go out fighting the way we did,” Brady’s post continued. “There’s so much to appreciate in a season like this when you’re surrounded by a team that believes in each other, and plays for the people standing on either side of them. I’ll spare you the Man in the Arena quote, but that feeling is something that I promise I’ll never take for granted. To everyone that was a part of it this year, thank you. I love you all!”

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians (L) talks with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) during warmups prior to the game against the Washington Football Team at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arians giving TB12 time, bearish on free agents

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said Monday that Tom Brady will “take all the time he needs” while giving a bearish outlook on being able to bring back all of their free agents.

Fresh off a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in an NFC divisional playoff game on Sunday, Arians said the team will reload – not rebuild – and take a run at bringing back as many of its free agents as possible.

“I think of it as a reload like it is every year. … We’ll see how many we can get back and then build the team from there,” Arians said.

While Brady is under contract for 2022, there’s speculation that he might call it a career.

“I haven’t talked to him yet. (He’ll) take all the time he needs. We’ll see,” Arians said.

Arians said he’s “comfortable” with the Bucs’ stable of quarterbacks if Brady does retire while allowing for a wild card. Blaine Gabbert and rookie Kyle Trask are the other two QBs on the roster.

“I’d be comfortable if it is. I like what we have,” Arians said of his quarterbacks room. “Again, you never know what’s behind door No. 2. We kind of went down that road and it was Tom Brady. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Arians isn’t as comfortable with the list of impending unrestricted free agents, including wide receiver Chris Godwin, center Ryan Jensen, running back Leonard Fournette, defensive backs Carlton Davis and Jordan Whitehead, among others. The Bucs currently have $19.4 million in salary cap space for 2022, per Overthecap.com.

The Bucs were able to bring back all of their players after last year’s Super Bowl victory, a feat Arians doesn’t think they can repeat.

“Each year, it’s so different and so new. Last year, to get everybody back, was amazing. I doubt we can do it all again this year, but we’re still gonna give it our best.”

It’s also possible Arians could lose both coordinators. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles both have interviewed for head coaching openings around the league.

Leftwich has called plays under Arians, a departure from when Arians was the head coach in Arizona. However, Arians said he might assume that role again if he loses Leftwich.

“There would be a really good chance (of me calling plays), yes,.” Arians said.

–Field Level Media

Jan 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) run the ball against Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) during the first half in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Rams edge Bucs on late field goal to reach NFC title game

Matt Gay converted a 30-yard field goal Sunday as time expired, giving the Los Angeles Rams a 30-27 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC divisional playoffs in Tampa, Fla.

The Rams advance to the conference title game against the rival San Francisco 49ers next Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake. The 49ers have beaten the Rams six straight times.

A win in the NFC final would enable Los Angeles to become the second straight franchise to play a home game in the Super Bowl.

Gay’s game-winning kick Sunday was set up when Matthew Stafford, who completed 28 of 38 passes for 366 yards and two touchdowns, found Cooper Kupp for a 44-yard gain to the Buccaneers’ 12-yard line. The play capped a nine-catch, 183-yard day for Kupp.

Tampa Bay tied the game with 42 seconds left when Leonard Fournette had a 9-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1, completing the Bucs’ comeback from a 24-point third-quarter deficit. But they left just enough time for Los Angeles to beat them.

Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady led a frantic second-half comeback, hitting 30 of 54 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown for the game, with an interception. Mike Evans caught eight passes for 119 yards and a 55-yard score that pulled the Bucs within 27-20 with 3:20 to play.

Los Angeles controlled the first half behind big pass plays and a tough, physical defense that harassed Brady continually. It initiated scoring just under seven minutes into the game on a 26-yard field goal by Gay.

Stafford made it 10-0 on the Rams’ next drive, rolling left and flipping a 7-yard touchdown pass across his body to backup tight end Kendall Blanton. Tampa Bay got on the board with 32 seconds left in the first quarter on Ryan Succop’s 45-yard field goal.

But Los Angeles made it 17-3 with 14:17 left in the second quarter when Stafford turned third-and-20 into a 70-yard scoring strike to Kupp. Another field goal from Gay, a 40-yarder with 2:19 remaining in the half, gave the Rams a 20-3 cushion at the break.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs (78) talks to running back Ronald Jones (27) on the sidelines in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs OT Tristan Wirfs out, C Ryan Jensen in vs. Rams

All-Pro offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs will miss the first game of his two-year NFL career on Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Los Angeles Rams in an NFC divisional-round clash.

While Wirfs was ruled inactive, Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen has been cleared to play. Both sustained ankle injuries during the Buccaneers’ 31-15 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in last weekend’s wild-card game.

Running back Leonard Fournette returns from a four-game absence due to a hamstring strain for the Bucs. He was activated from injured reserve on Saturday.

Fournette rushed for team-high 812 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games this season. He also caught 69 passes for 454 yards and two scores.

Fournette was a force in the postseason last year. He ran for 300 yards and three TDs and caught 18 passes for 148 yards and one score as the Buccaneers won four straight games to win the Super Bowl.

In addition to Wirfs, Tampa Bay’s inactives include running back Ronald Jones II, cornerback Pierre Desir, quarterbacks Kyle Trask and Ryan Griffin, and wide receivers Cyril Grayson Jr. and Breshad Perriman.

The Rams listed offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and Tremayne Anchrum Jr., safety Taylor Rapp, running back Buddy Howell, quarterback Bryce Perkins and linebackers Chris Garrett and Terrell Lewis as inactive.

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Tom Brady weighing retirement

Retirement watch begins in Tampa Bay if Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are eliminated from the NFC playoffs on Sunday.

Brady, 44, is planning to take “a month or longer” to decide whether to play in 2022, ESPN reported before the Buccaneers hosted the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional playoffs.

Brady led the Bucs to the Super Bowl last season and signed a restructured contract that includes next season.

The report indicates Brady and the Bucs are pleased with their partnership and mental and physical health are the forefront of the conversation with Brady and his family.

He said in the past he would like to play until age 45 and perhaps beyond, and performance has not been an issue.

Brady led the NFL in passing yards with a career-high 5,316 yards and tossed 43 touchdown passes despite a revolving door at the wide receiver and tight end positions.

The offseason could bring drama to the quarterback position for more than half of the NFL’s 32 teams, led by prominent passers like Brady, Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers), Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) and others.

Rodgers said he has a “tough decision” to make before the start of free agency about his future after Green Bay was eliminated from the postseason. Wilson first indicated 12 months ago that he wasn’t happy in Seattle and wanted the franchise to address the offensive line.

After missing the playoffs this season, Wilson said he would explore his options, but is under contract with the team.

Should Brady retire, the Buccaneers would most likely be in the market for a quarterback, too. Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask, a second-round pick in 2021, are the team’s backup quarterbacks.

–Field Level Media

Sep 26, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) runs past Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive guard Alex Cappa (65) to pressure quarterback Tom Brady (not pictured) during the second quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Rams underdogs as they seek second win vs. Bucs

Contrasts between Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford couldn’t be more striking when it comes to postseason football.

Tampa Bay’s 31-15 win last week over the Philadelphia Eagles upped Brady’s playoff record to 34-11. Seven of those wins, including one last February on the Bucs’ home field over Kansas City, have put Super Bowl rings on Brady’s fingers.

Stafford piloted his first career playoff win Monday night when Los Angeles routed the Arizona Cardinals 34-11. It was only his fourth career postseason game. He appeared in just three over 12 mostly fruitless years with the Detroit Lions.

The Bucs are 2.5-point favorites but the betting action has been tight at most sportsbooks. The Rams are being backed by 54 percent of the bets and 57 percent of the spread-line handle at DraftKings, while the Bucs have been supported by 56 percent of the bets at PointsBet but Los Angeles has drawn 73 percent of the money.

Stafford can double his playoff win total on Sunday in Tampa if the Rams topple Brady and the defending champs in an NFC divisional playoff meeting.

“I thought he did a great job leading the way,” said Los Angeles coach Sean McVay. “He’s still the same great player to me and he always was before this game as well. I think it’s good so you guys don’t have to talk about that any more so he can get that one out of the way. Just so lucky to be able to do this with him. He’s our leader. We wouldn’t be here without him.”

Stafford played the type of efficient, mistake-free game that hasn’t always been a staple of his career. He was 13 of 17 for 202 yards and two touchdowns, while adding a third score via his legs. His passer rating of 154.5 set a franchise record for a playoff game, according to NFL Research.

For his part, Stafford said the result was more about helping the team advance in the postseason than it was getting the bagel out of his playoff win column.

“I think it means a lot more to you guys and all that,” he said. “I just want to be a part of this team and help us win. I trust in myself, trust in my abilities, trust in my teammates.”

Stafford threw for 4,886 yards and 41 touchdowns this season, including 343 and four scores in a 34-24 Week 3 win over the Buccaneers in Inglewood.

The Buccaneers figure to have Leonard Fournette on the field after he was activated off injured reserve on Saturday. Fournette was sidelined with a hamstring injury and he missed the final three regular-season games as well as last weekend’s 31-15 playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

And Tampa Bay is hoping to have the services of a couple of Pro Bowl offensive linemen — right tackle Tristan Wirfs and center Ryan Jensen. Both left last week’s win with ankle injuries. Both returned to practice on Friday but will be game-time decisions on Sunday.

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians is concerned about the health of his offensive line and how it could affect Brady’s performance against a pass rush that’s added Von Miller since the teams’ October meeting.

“I’d be worried if they were healthy,” Arians said. “If they’re not healthy, I’m hellaciously worried.”

Brady did absorb four sacks against Philadelphia, but still found time to hit 29 of 37 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Evans caught nine passes for 117 yards and a score, and Rob Gronkowski bagged the 15th playoff touchdown catch of his career, trailing only Jerry Rice in NFL postseason history.

Most importantly, Tampa Bay’s defense blanked the Eagles for three-plus quarters, shutting down their running game and forcing quarterback Jalen Hurts to beat them with his arm instead of his feet. Philadelphia’s two fourth quarter scores only made the final margin look more respectable.

“Just the level of intensity that the defense came out with, it was just exceptional,” Gronkowski said. “We just had to match them on the offensive end, and we did at times for sure. We played some complimentary football.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 14, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen (66) during warmups against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs C Ryan Jensen, RT Tristan Wirfs return to practice

Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Tristan Wirfs were spotted during the portion of practice open to the media on Friday.

Jensen and Wirfs missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday due to their respective ankle injuries. Their participation in practice on Friday likely will go a long way toward determining their availability for Sunday’s NFC divisional-round playoff clash against the visiting Los Angeles Rams.

Jensen and Wirfs sustained their respective injuries during the Buccaneers’ 31-15 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC wild-card game last Sunday.

Leonard Fournette also suited up for practice on Friday, although he would need to be activated off injured reserve in order to play against the Rams.

Backfield mate Ronald Jones, who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, was out of his boot on Thursday but did not practice.

Fournette led Tampa Bay in rushing with 812 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He also caught 69 passes for 454 yards and two scores.

With Fournette and Jones sidelined last weekend against Philadelphia, Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard combined to rush for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 30 carries.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) looks on prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette trending toward facing Rams

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette remains on injured reserve but appears increasingly likely to play against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

Fournette was spotted during the portion of practice open to the media on Thursday, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Backfield mate Ronald Jones, who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, was out of his boot on Thursday but did not practice.

Because he is still on IR, Fournette was not listed on the official injury report. But offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich sounded optimistic after practice that Fournette will be ready to play for the first time since injuring his hamstring on Dec. 19.

“We’re still using this week to see if he’s healthy and how healthy he is,” Leftwich said. “It’s really tough right now to try and put a workload on him without really getting through the end of the week.

“I’ll have a better idea on what he can do as we get more towards Friday. But right now, (it’s) just good to see him out there and trying to work his way back in to do what he’s doing. Once he’s healthy, we’ll expect Lenny to be Lenny.”

Fournette led Tampa Bay in rushing with 812 yards and eight touchdowns. He also caught 69 passes for 454 yards and two touchdowns.

With Fournette and Jones sidelined last weekend against Philadelphia, Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard combined to rush for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 30 carries. But Leftwich would love to get his workhorse back in time to face the Rams.

“It’s hard to do better from the running back position for us and what we ask him to do,” Leftwich said. “We ask him to catch it, we ask him to run it and we ask him to pass protect.

“He’s tough to get down on the ground. It’s good to be able to have a guy like that that can run it the way that he runs it and catch it the way he can catch it, and play with the football IQ that he has. Lenny is a unique guy.”

The Bucs continue to have significant concerns along the offensive line as center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Tristan Wirfs did not practice for the second consecutive day as they recover from ankle injuries. Backup tackle Josh Wells (quad) was listed as a limited participant.

“They’re a lot of tough dudes,” guard Ali Marpet said of the Bucs’ offensive line. “I think at this point in the year in order to play offensive line, you’re always going to be dealing with stuff.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arians to appeal $50K fine for slapping own player

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said he will appeal a reported $50,000 fine from the NFL for slapping the helmet of one of his own players in Sunday’s wild-card game.

Arians incurred the fine, first reported by NFL Network on Wednesday, after smacking Tampa Bay safety Andrew Adams in the defending champions’ 31-15 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I’ll appeal it,” Arians told reporters Wednesday. “It ain’t got nothing to do with the game, so we’re good.”

The incident occurred in the third quarter during a scrum near the Bucs’ sideline. The Eagles’ Jalen Reagor fumbled on a punt return and Tampa Bay recovered it in the ensuing pile.

Arians went after Adams to make sure he didn’t pull other players off the pile, which would have drawn a penalty. Arians slapped Adams in the helmet and followed with an elbow to the shoulder.

The incident sparked a lot of activity on social media. But Arians was unmoved when asked about it Monday.

“I’ve seen enough dumb — you can’t pull guys out of a pile,” he said. “We just got a big play, great field position, and he’s trying to pull a guy out of a pile, and I was trying to knock him off of that guy so he didn’t get a penalty.”

Adams is mostly a special teams player for the Bucs. He played 82 percent of the special teams snaps against the Eagles.

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) drops back to pass in the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Buccaneers take care of business, handle Eagles 31-15

Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns as the second-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened defense of their Super Bowl crown Sunday with a smooth 31-15 victory over the seventh-seeded Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC wild-card playoff game in Tampa, Fla.

Brady completed 29 of 37 passes for 271 yards in an efficient performance, enabling Tampa Bay to stay home next weekend for a conference semifinal. Mike Evans caught nine passes for 117 yards and a score.

“A lot of guys stepped up,” Brady said. “We’re obviously down quite a few guys. A lot of guys toughed it out today, but in the end, no one really cares. We got a win and we move on.”

Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts struggled for most of his first playoff start, connecting on 23 of 43 passes for 258 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. The Eagles weren’t able to run the ball successfully until the game was out of reach, enabling the Buccaneers to tee off on Hurts.

While Tampa Bay sacked the mobile Hurts just twice, it mounted steady pressure and did a solid job of covering his wide receivers. Sixteen of Hurts’ completions were to tight ends and running backs.

The Buccaneers set an immediate tone by marching 75 yards on the game’s first possession. Giovani Bernard got the score on a 2-yard run with 10 minutes left in the first quarter.

Tampa Bay made it 14-0 with 25 seconds left in the quarter when Ke’Shawn Vaughn plunged in from the 1 to finish a 70-yard yard that lasted four minutes. On its next possession, Tampa Bay chewed up 53 yards and nearly five minutes to set up Ryan Succop’s 34-yard field goal that made it 17-0 with 9:16 remaining in the half.

By that point the Eagles had managed just one first down on three possessions.

The Buccaneers used Philadelphia turnovers to put the game away in the third quarter. When Jalen Reagor muffed a punt, Ross Cockrell recovered for Tampa Bay, and five plays later, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski with a 2-yard touchdown pass.

Two minutes later, Hurts was intercepted by Shaquil Barrett, and Brady hit Evans with a 36-yard touchdown on the next play.

Philadelphia made the final score respectable with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Boston Scott ran 34 yards with 12:08 left and Hurts hit Kenneth Gainwell for a 16-yard score with 4:45 remaining.

“It definitely hurts because the goal is never just to get to the playoffs,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “The goal is to get in and do some damage in there. So that was everybody’s mindset.”

–Field Level Media