By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – Tom Brady is eager to develop a rapport with his new Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates, but the star quarterback faces an unfamiliar challenge with the sporting world ground to a halt amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Brady, who joined the Bucs last week after 20 years of unparalleled success with the New England Patriots, cannot prepare for the 2020 NFL campaign as he would like since offseason programs have been delayed indefinitely.
NFL players are being asked not to gather just as tens of millions of other Americans practice social distancing to help slow the spread of the sometimes deadly new coronavirus.
Even Brady’s official introduction as a member of the Bucs, an event that would have typically been held at a team facility in front of a large gathering of media, was reduced to a conference call on Tuesday.
For Brady, who won an NFL-record six Super Bowl titles with the Patriots, each passing day away from teammates makes it more difficult to grasp his new receivers’ tendencies.
“There’s a lot of ground to make up because I haven’t worked with these players and I am going to have to learn what they do and their body language and how they like things and that’s part of the challenge,” Brady said on the call.
“It’s unfortunate what we are going through in our world. It presents different challenges for all of us, so as soon as we have the opportunity to all be together in one place we can really start working toward (our goal).”
The NFL’s 2020 season is scheduled to kick off in September and Brady, 42, will be at the helm of a Bucs team that boasts an elite receiving corps and top defense.
Despite not being able to gather with new teammates in person as soon as he would like, Brady is not about to make any excuses as he tries to become only the second quarterback to win Super Bowls with two different teams. Peyton Manning won NFL titles with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos.
“There are aspects of our offseason that have changed and I am sure will change to a degree but that doesn’t stop me from figuring out what I’ve got to do in my professional life, to still learn the things I need to learn and train the way I need to train,” Brady said.
Brady will also have to establish a rapport with a new head coach for the first time in his professional career, after working with Bill Belichick in one of the game’s greatest partnerships.
“As far I know, there is nothing that’s delayed the start of our season at this point and I’ve got to do everything I can to be prepared as I would in an offseason where we weren’t dealing with what we’re dealing with,” he added.
With no access to team facilities for the time being, Brady said he will communicate with teammates spread across the country virtually.
“Technology is an amazing thing and we are going to use technology as best we can to try to get to know each other,” he said.
“They are ahead of me on what they need to know in terms of the offence, so I really got to get up to speed with the things that they already know and their terminology and it’s a lot of time and energy, but that’s what I love to do.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Bill Berkrot)