TAMPA — Tristan Wirfs doesn’t need to be reminded how important his job will be this year. Rookie or no rookie, he knows he can’t risk letting anyone get to the Bucs’ soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback.
"To protect a guy like Tom (Brady) is a pretty big deal," Wirfs said.
And nobody on the Bucs offensive line may have a bigger disadvantage than Wirfs.
The first-round pick from Iowa is expected to start at right tackle but will have to do so without the benefit of an offseason or preseason games.
Throwing Wirfs to the Lions — and Saints in the season opener may not be the best way to start a career.
After only a couple days in pads, and with no preseason to steady his legs and nerves, Wirfs will square off against New Orleans Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sept. 13.
"That’s kind of how my college career started — I was kind of just tossed in there," said Wirfs, who became the first Iowa true freshman to start on the offensive line under head coach Kirk Ferentz, "If it is happening this way, at this level, I’d be all right with it. I’ve just got to go out there and do my best. That’s all I can ask of myself.."
Wirfs is fortunate. Brady, who is entering his 21st NFL season, is coolly efficient in the pocket. His recognition and reaction to opposing defenses makes him one of the harder quarterbacks in the NFL to sack.
Brady was sacked 27 times last season. That tied for 23rd in the league with ... the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson.
Wirfs appears to be in a good place as rookies and quarterbacks reported to training camp this week. He moved to Tampa on June 6 and was able to do some training at Skyway Park.
"I was able to train over there and get my running in (and) get some drills in with a couple of my teammates. That was a lot of fun. That was good. Now, just getting things rolling. It’s exciting."
If there is a knock on Wirfs, aside from his lack of experience, it’s his calm demeanor. There is no Mr. Hyde to his Dr. Jekyll. Detractors have claimed he needs to develop a mean streak, but Wirfs said killing with kindness also works.
"I’m not a mean person.," he said. "When I’m out there, I want to get my job done. I feel like if you can put a defender on his back and then help him up with a smile on your face, and do it over again, I think that’s going to frustrate him more than if you’re talking crap to him the whole game."
Wirfs said his family has asked him every day if he has had a chance to meet Brady yet.
Then one day earlier this week, it happened. Brady came around a corner and nearly ran into Wirfs.
"He said, ‘What’s up, big dog?‘" Wirfs said. "I thought it was kind of crazy because he’s Tom Brady. Then he asked me how old I was and I told him 21, and he kind of started laughing. He said something like, ‘You think you have experience? I’ve got double your experience.’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ That’s really about it. I waved to him when he was leaving the other day. He seems really nice. I’m excited to get to be his teammate."
Two more backs on reserve/COVID-19 list
Maybe this is why LeSean McCoy is here.
Two more running backs were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list: Raymond Calais, a seventh-round pick from Louisiana-Lafayettte; and Aca’Cedric Ware. Earlier this week, running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, the third-round pick from Vanderbilt, went onto the list for the virus.