TAMPA, Fla. — Tom Brady returned to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday, ending what was described as an 11-day, pre-arranged absence from training camp for personal reasons.
The seven-time Super Bowl champion did not address the media after practice. Teammates and coach Todd Bowles said the 45-year-old quarterback threw the ball sharply and essentially picked up where he left off when he left the team on Aug. 11.
“If anyone can come off an 11-day layoff in training camp, it’s Tom,” tight end Cameron Brate said. “He’s back, firing on all cylinders again. We’re all glad he’s back and ready to move on.”
While he was away, Brady missed two preseason games that Bowles said the quarterback wouldn’t have played even if he were with the team.
The coach said the break was planned long before training camp began last month.
“His presence is different, he’s just a leader, type of guy,” linebacker Lavonte David said. “It’s great to have a guy like that back. He’s back, ready to take off where he left off.”
In Brady’s absence, backup Blaine Gabbert and third stringer Kyle Trask shared most of the snaps in practice and during preseason losses to the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts. Bowles said it has yet to be determined if — or how much — Brady can play in Saturday’s preseason finale in Indianapolis.
The quarterback’s return comes as the Bucs continue to battle injuries along the offensive line, facing the prospect of entering the season opener on Sept. 11 with at least two new starters. Center Ryan Jensen was lost to a knee injury on the second day of camp and left guard Aaron Stinney suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Titans last weekend.
Bowles said the biggest thing Brady has been missing in his absence is some conditioning.
“He is very familiar with the crime. So him coming back and us going back to work is normal,” the coach said.
“Anytime you get all your guys back, you feel good,” Bowles added. “Especially after the recent injury, we’re glad to have him back.”
Stinney, who has been battling for an opening on the offensive line created by the surprise retirement of Ali Morpeto, and linebacker Cam Gill (leg) were placed on injured reserve Monday.
Second-year pro Robert Hainsey is the leading option to open the season in center.
With Stinney out, rookie Luke Goedeke and second-year pro Nick Leverett will compete for the left guard job, though there’s still a chance the team could try to find outside help.
“We like our home options but there has to be a player available for us to want to add a player,” Bowles said. “We’re not going to just sign back to back.”