Reality has hit that NFL season is here amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Tom Brady acknowledged he is playing catch-up ahead of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers debut, with the prospect of taking part in a real NFL game suddenly in focus amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Brady sensationally swapped the New England Patriots for the Buccaneers via free agency in the offseason, but the six-time Super Bowl champion and his preparations have been restricted due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Coronavirus forced the cancellation of the entire preseason schedule, meaning legendary quarterback Brady and the Buccaneers will have to hit the ground running against the New Orleans Saints behind closed doors in Sunday’s opener.

“We’ve got one more day of practice before we play a game,” Brady told reporters on Thursday. “So I think that hit me today that we’ve had a lot of these practices leading up to it and you just kind of finish practice and you go and watch the tape, then you go and get ready for the next practice.

“I think the reality hit me today that we are actually getting ready to play a game, and it is no longer just another practice tomorrow. We’ve got live contact, live football, real results, and it is something I haven’t done in nine months. We’re going to have to learn quickly and get up to speed as quickly as possible. I think the first quarter of the game is going to be new for everybody.

“Getting our feet wet and understanding the speed of the game is going to be a little faster than what it has been in practice. Hopefully I can recall some of things I have done over a period of time and go out there and try to play a real, solid football game against a great football team.”

The Buccaneers, who also boast former Patriots star Rob Gronkowski, have not reached the playoffs since 2007 after finishing last season with a 7-9 record in the NFC South.

Brady, 43, added: “Ultimately the team that is going to win is the one that executes the best. So it doesn’t matter if there is two million people in the stands or if there is nobody in the stands.

“The team that is going to win is the team that does their job, does their assignment, makes the plays, plays with good fundamentals, plays together, communicates well. All the things that it takes to be a great football team on a consistent basis.

“Ultimately we just have to be able to focus on what our job is and not who is in the crowd, who’s not in the crowd. It is going to be a football game once that balls kicks off and we’ll all be locked in and ready to go, and understand that all these games count.

“We’ve got a tough division opponent right off the bat. I think everyone is really excited, and we’ll have to go out there and be at our best on Sunday.”

Published 11 Sep 2020, 05:08 IST

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