TAMPA, Fla. — The Buccaneers will host another team at their practice facility for the next two days, and they likely have but one request: Please don’t steal our quarterback.
Yes, that’s right: The Miami Dolphins, of all teams, are coming to Tampa this week to face Tom Brady and the Bucs. The teams will practice together Wednesday and Thursday, then face off in their preseason opener Saturday night.
These are the same Dolphins who had “numerous and detailed” conversations with Brady throughout the 2019 season when he was with the Patriots, according to the NFL. The same Dolphins who started recruiting Brady again in December of 2021, while Brady was trying to lead the Bucs to another Super Bowl.
And the same Dolphins whose lust for Brady landed them stern punishments from commissioner Roger Goodell just eight days ago.
“Unprecedented scope and severity,” is how Goodell described the Dolphins’ tampering.
The joint practices were planned in May, long before the Bucs and Dolphins became embroiled in one of the NFL’s most salacious stories of 2022.
If Brady had gotten his way, he would have attended this week’s practices as a Dolphins executive. Perhaps he would have been wearing an aqua jersey and throwing touchdown passes to Jaylen Waddle, too.
Instead, because of Brian Flores’s unrelated and unforeseen lawsuit, Brady is back wearing the Bucs’ creamsicle. The Dolphins kept young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and settled with new coach Mike McDaniel. And the Dolphins come to Tampa this week a bit lighter in the wallet.
The NFL stripped the Dolphins of two high draft picks — a 2023 first-rounder and 2024 third-rounder — while owner Stephen Ross was fined $1.5 million, suspended for two months, banned from NFL meetings for the rest of the season, and stripped of his various NFL committee duties. Dolphins limited partner Bruce Beal, the main point of contact between Brady and the Dolphins, was fined $500,000 and banned from NFL meetings for 2022.
Brady, though, suffered no repercussions from the NFL. The league considers tampering a team violation. So he, Sean Payton, and agent Don Yee — who had Dolphins gigs lined up for both of his clients until Flores’s lawsuit forced all sides to call it off — get off scot-free.
But it must be embarrassing for Brady to have it revealed that he spent the 2019 season flirting.
Brady didn’t meet with reporters after Tuesday’s relatively light practice, but that is nothing new. He hasn’t spoken to the media since the Dolphins penalties were announced Aug. 2. His only media availability of training camp so far was on Aug. 1.
The Bucs have every right to be furious with the Dolphins, who were recruiting Brady during the middle of the Bucs’ playoff run. Yet the Bucs refuse to get caught up in the dustup, because they emerged as the big winners.
They got Brady back for a third season and are legitimate Super Bowl contenders again. Free agents want to come play for them. Their stands were packed for training camp on a Tuesday, and their national TV slate is filled up this fall. It’s one more season in the spotlight, and the Bucs don’t really seem to care about how it all came together.
Bucs coach Todd Bowles downplayed the tampering news last week, saying, “It has nothing to do with us.” He reiterated that after Tuesday’s practice.
“There’s stuff in the NFL that goes on that doesn’t affect us at all,” he said. “It doesn’t even cross our plate, so to speak. That’s something that the NFL dealt with, and our camp is our camp. The guys in the locker room do a good job of keeping the outside distractions to a minimum.”
Bowles also downplayed the severity of Brady’s transgressions, noting that tampering is common in the NFL.
“The funny thing is, everybody can do that, but if you’re a superstar and do that, you get more notoriety than the backup or whoever does it,” Bowles said. “So we don’t worry about that. He’s a stand-up guy, he’s a great human being, and we love having him around.”
Bowles said the joint sessions with the Dolphins will be “like normal practices. We’ll have our team-run periods and our blitz periods and our seven-on-sevens and things like that.”
But the context is anything but normal: A 45-year-old quarterback squaring off against the team that recruited him heavily for three seasons; had a deal fall apart to make him team president, part-owner, and maybe starting quarterback; then was hammered with significant penalties because of it all.
The stands should be packed the next two days. And the Bucs may want to hire extra security.
They need to make sure the Dolphins owners don’t show up and try to steal Brady again.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.