Under the guise of a two-minute offense, the Bucs looked determined with Brady at the helm. His six total completions on the night were spread out to five different receivers, including veteran newcomer Julio Jones, who hauled in the biggest play of the opening drive with a 20-yard catch along the sideline to get the Bucs in the red zone.
“Julio is really easy to have chemistry with,” said Brady. “He’s an elite wide receiver in the NFL.”
Brady’s night ended after the opening drive, completing 6 of 8 passes for 44 yards. While Brady’s return to the playing field generated a positive outlook, the Bucs did not walk away from the preseason finale unscathed.
Center Robert Hainsey left the game in the second quarter due to an ankle injury that could possibly threaten his availability for Sept. 11’s Week 1 opener versus the Cowboys. Hainsey’s backup, Nick Leverett, also exited the game early due to a shoulder injury.
Hainsey has been working towards becoming the Bucs starting center for 2022 after Ryan Jensen suffered a significant knee injury on July 28, and getting used to the second-year player was a major reason for Brady playing in the final preseason game.
“It’s a tough position. I mean, that’s a big position for an offense, the center position,” Brady said of Hainsey. “Obviously, we all hated to lose Ryan. The extent of that we’re still trying to figure out but it’s going to be a while. Hainsey stepped in and has done a good job. Worked really hard to gain the confidence of his teammates last year and the trust of the whole organization and he’s going to have to do a great job.”
Saturday’s dings along the offensive line continue an alarming trend for the Bucs. Starting guard Aaron Stinnie suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 of the preseason, and any more extended absences of Brady’s blockers can’t be afforded.
The most important absence, however, did come to an end visually with Brady orchestrating a successful drive in a Bucs uniform. Despite the hiccups along the way, Brady and Co. are looking to move forward to the 2022 season with the hope of rendering the past month as a mere afterthought by virtue of their success on the field.
“We’ve had some injuries with the line we’re all dealing with but you know, try to put together a good unit to go out there and compete,” Brady said. “We’re playing against a really good opponent in Dallas. It’s going to be a really good test for us.”