The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter 2020 with high expectations after signing Tom Brady to a historic deal. The future Hall-of-Fame QB will look to become the first QB to lead his team to a Super Bowl win in the franchise’s home stadium, as this year’s big game is at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
If Brady and the Buccaneers are going to accomplish that feat, the team’s offensive line will have to show it can protect the soon-to-be 43-year-old QB. The unit ranked seventh in the league last season, per PFF, and they have Tampa Bay as the 13th ranked unit heading into 2020.
The franchise added Tristan Wirfs with their first-round pick in the 2019 draft and the plan is for him to slot in as the team’s right tackle right away. That’s a risk for the franchise, though Wirfs was elite at Iowa and transitioning from the college ranks to the right tackle position should be a feasible task.
Bucs’ Starting Left Tackle Concerns About COVID-19
The risk of getting Wirfs pro-ready could be amplified if the rookie has to play left tackle. Incumbent starter Donovan Smith, who has improved his PFF grade in each of his five seasons in the league, posted on his social media that he is worried for the safety of him and his family with regard to playing football in the COVID-19 environment.
“With the start of the 2020 NFL season fast approaching, many thoughts and questions roam my mind as I’m sure it does for many of my fellow ‘coworkers’ across the league,” Smith wrote.
“The unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt to a lot of things. Football is not one. To continue discussing the many UNKNOWNS do not give me the comfort. Risking my health as well as my family’s health does not seem like a risk worth taking.
Smith’s first child is due in three weeks and he has concerns about being able to see his daughter after coming home from practices and training.
“How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferral of all types of bodily fluid EVERY SINGLE PLAY practice safe social distancing? How can I make sure that I don’t bring COVID-19 back to my household?” Smith added.
“Yes, we can get tested everyday, but if it takes 24 hours to get my results, how can I know each day that I am not spreading this virus or contracting it? The reoccurring issue here is how? There are too many ‘hows’ that have yet to be answered to ease player concerns and ensure the safety of not only myself, but also my family.
‘I just can’t imagine how the game will be the same during these unprecedented times. Now to hear that 35% of my paycheck may be withheld while we are out sacrificing our health and wellness for the joy and entertainment of everyone else who will be safe at home in front of their TVs? Something isn’t right here. That should at LEAST warrant a pay raise due to the risk, not a cut. I am not a lab rat or guinea pig to test theories on. I am a man, a son, brother, soon to be father, and I deserve to be safe at work.”