The general consensus is that preseason football games are meaningless. After all, a win or a loss in the preseason is worth zilch once the regular season rolls around.
But Friday night's game needs to be treated as a big deal for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Because the Bucs square off against the New England Patriots and they have something to prove to them and the rest of the NFL. The Bucs are coming off a miserable 4-12 season and while most people expect them to be better this year under first year head coach Greg Schiano, they are still expected to be near the bottom of the league when it comes to wins.
But they can change that perception with a statement game against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
New England has won three Super Bowls and appeared in two others in the last 11 years, including last season. They are an excellent test for a young team like Tampa Bay that is trying to mold and model itself after the Patriots.
That's partly why Schiano agreed to hold joint practices with the Patriots, which started today at One Buccaneer Place. Schiano said he could see his group was excited to be practicing with the Patriots on Wednesday.
"There is no doubt they were excited to go against one of the best football teams in this league. If not the best," said Schiano. "Anytime you get a guy like Tom Brady out there, a first ballot hall of famer, that’s going up and down the field it is great for our defense. When you got to block a guy like Vince Wilfork and when he is on your nose it is great for our offense. Just situational stuff. To be able to do it. It was good."
It's great that the Bucs get to practice against quality vets like Brady and Wilfork, but they have to make sure they take advantage of that. Schiano took the opportunity today to learn from New England head coach Bill Belichick and believes his players can benefit from going against New England players as long as they stay focused.
"They’re both players in the National Football League. They’re both chasing the same prize," said Schiano. "But if you can put your ego on the side and say this guy – you’re looking at some Hall of Fame players – that I get to be on the same field with, I’d be foolish not to. I’m a head coach and Bill’s a head coach but I’d be foolish not to learn from Bill Belichick today. And I did. If you don’t, if you put your ego up there and you don’t want to do it, then you probably won’t be doing it for very long."
After last week's 30-7 thumping at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, it is obvious that there is still a lot of work to be done before the Bucs are ready to contend for a playoff spot this season.
They could move a lot closer to that goal with a big-time performance against one of the league's elite franchises.
The Bucs don't even have to win the game. But if their starters can keep up with the Patriots' first-team, which throttled Tampa Bay's starters 28-0 during the first half of a preseason game last year, then that would be quite an accomplishment.
It would also show that Schiano has this team moving in the right direction.
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