NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Saints

     

Buccaneers

The Buccaneers have been building their Super Bowl team for the past two seasons, and the person at the center of it all is GM Jason Licht. He’s rebounded from a tough stretch that had him on the hot seat with a hot streak of moves, including persuading HC Bruce Arians to come back out of retirement. 

“Jason is the main reason I came back in coaching,” Arians said via ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “I knew how good of an evaluator he was and having worked with him — we shared the same vision.”

Getting Arians was the major piece that enabled the Buccaneers to position themselves as ultimately the top contender for Tom Brady as he left the Patriots. Tampa Bay had built its roster to such a strong standing that Brady was pitching the Buccaneers on adding him while they were pitching him on signing with them. 

“I love the opportunity that presented itself here, which is ultimately why I chose here,” Brady said. “I really love the coaching staff, I loved the players that they had. I looked at those players and thought, ‘Wow, these are really great players. This would be a good opportunity for me.’

“I went through a process of decisions and thinking about everything that really mattered to me in some way [and] one form or another. Obviously, a lot of family considerations. My son [Jack] lives in New York and I didn’t want to be too far from him. It just ended up being a great fit and as it’s played out, I’ve just thought, ‘Wow, this has really been a magical year.'”

  • NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport points out the Buccaneers signed WR Antonio Brown because Brady convinced Arians and the coaching staff Brown was committed to winning. 
  • Rapoport reports that Buccaneers’ TE Cameron Brate is having back discomfort and is sitting out as a precautionary measure. Rapoport adds that Brate currently plans to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
  • Adam Schefter confirmed that Brate is expected to play despite being listed as questionable. 

Falcons

Falcons RB Todd Gurley said he’s reached out to the new team leadership to express interest in coming back in 2021. Gurley was thrilled to come back to Georgia where he played college football but his season didn’t go as well as he’d hoped. The addition of new HC Arthur Smith has Gurley thrilled all over again, though, after watching him the past couple of years with Titans RB Derrick Henry, and he wants to be a part of what Smith is building. 

“You get excited about a coach that runs the ball which you know doesn’t happen very often,” Gurley said via the team website. “So you definitely get super excited about that. I definitely have to reach out to him and [new GM Terry Fontenot] just to be able to talk to them to see what they’re thinking and just get a head start on the free agency thing.” 

  • Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank would be “completely shocked” if QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones are not with the team next season: “They’ll both be with us.” (Andrew Siciliano)
  • Blank also believes that the number of games played next season will increase by one: “In my opinion, I think it will be a 17 game season next year.” (D. Orlando Ledbetter)

Saints

The Saints have consistently had one of the NFL’s most talented rosters the past few years. But they’ve also experienced the most heartbreak of any team in the playoffs in that span, with two upsets at the hands of the Vikings, including the Minneapolis Miracle, and a crushing missed pass interference call against the Rams in the conference championship game in 2018. Now that QB Drew Brees is retiring and the Saints are nearing the breaking point with their cap financially, there’s some thought that New Orleans’ window is closing. That’s not what veteran LB Demario Davis thinks, though. 

“I certainly think the mentality of a winner in any field of life, not just sports, anybody that’s had success, is you’re going to get knocked down, you’re going to get knocked down many times — as has happened with this team,” Davis said on NFL Media’s Good Morning Football. “But what winners, and successful people, understand is that it’s all about getting up. When you get up, you don’t know what’s on the other side, but that’s the only way to success, that’s the only way to victory, and that’s what this team has to do. Falling short, it’s going to happen. And it happened to us. But what do you do? You get up, dust yourself off and get ready to move forward. You find a way to take all of that pain from that loss and you use it to motivate you and propel you forward. There is no doubt in my mind that this team will do that as it’s always done.”

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