TAMPA, Fla. — The Buccaneers have been here before.
Now they have to do it again.
With the playoffs beginning Sunday, Tampa Bay might be the healthiest its been since week one. Despite an injury list as long as a CVS receipt, expect to see Leonard Fournette, Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett return to action. Bruce Arians is hopeful on Lavonte David, but he is not a guarantee.
With Wednesday as a walkthrough practice, it is tough to know how everyone is doing, but it is clear the squad is energized by the return of friendly faces.
"Some of our best players, you know, are coming back. It is going to be a huge help. It's playoff time. We need those guys," wide receiver Mike Evans said.
Last year, only a handful of guys understood what the playoffs were like. Now? Almost everyone has significant experience playing in the Super Bowl.
"It’s playoff time and you have to make sure you’re amped," tight end Rob Gronkowski said. "You have [to have] the energy levels high and [be] ready to go every single play because every play is huge in the playoffs.”
Center Ryan Jensen said, "From last year to this year, at least how I feel, everybody is a lot more calm. Not as emotionally charged as we were last year."
Despite a record 13 wins, there is zero-tolerance for complacency. Head coach Bruce Arians is making it abundantly clear the team can celebrate an accomplishment like that in the offseason.
"You know, 2021 is over," Arians said. "There's a whole new season and nothing matters except winning this week. Everybody's in tune to that and you can feel it into the building. "
The key this week will be limiting quarterback Jalen Hurts and this potent Eagles rushing attack. Philadelphia is No. 1 in the NFL with 2,715 rushing yards this season. While the Bucs defense is ranked No. 3 in rushing defense at 92.5 yards per game, they have been struggling recently. Since week 10, after the bye week, that number has crept up around 105 yards per game.
“The way to get back to it is just to go ahead and follow our keys – stay with our fundamentals and pursue and swarm to the ball," defensive lineman William Gholston said. "I think that’s the only thing we can do better is to swarm to the ball and attack more. Everything will go into [place].”
Tom Brady and the coordinators will talk at practice on Thursday with weather a potential concern for Sunday. It is something we will keep an eye on as we get towards the end of the week.