By Rick Stroud/Tampa Bay Times
LeSean McCoy bounced onto the practice field Tuesday wearing a gray hoodie that appeared out of place on a hot and humid central Florida morning. At 32 years old, he had just signed a one-year contract with the Bucs when he was spotted by Tom Brady, and the two enjoyed a lung-busting hug.
A few minutes later, Brady demonstrated why the Bucs are a team that any NFL player would find easy to embrace. He threaded needles with passes to McCoy, Rob Gronkowski, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate.
After nearly every throw, Brady offered a word of encouragement or constructive direction. Since this was a strength and conditioning session, no coaches were present. None was needed.
“It felt good, just actually seeing all the talent,” said McCoy, a 12th-year pro. “You know about the names, but just to actually be out there with them and actually see face to face, to see the handoff and the passes ...
“But to actually see (Brady) work ... I mean, he’s like a general leading the troops. Teaching them what he wants in routes, things like that.”
Brady threw all kinds of passes. Slant routes, out routes, digs, fades as well as some deep balls.
McCoy played against Brady many times as a member of the Buffalo Bills and was a teammate of his in the Pro Bowl. He had seen the pinpoint accuracy before. But knowing Brady is now 43, witnessing it up close, the veteran running back said players were quietly buzzing about his performance.
“He looked real good,” McCoy said.
“And as he’s throwing the ball, I heard a couple guys whispering, ‘Dang, how many years do you think he’ll play?’ I mean, that’s how good he looked. Seriously. Me and Gronk talked about it. His will to win. His will to go out there and still keep going. Once you see a guy like that display that attitude? I mean, you want to be a part of it. That’s what I’m asking, ‘Man, how much longer can I do it?’ He looked good. He’s in good shape. He’s throwing the ball really well. He’s like a coach. Like a coach with a helmet on.”
McCoy is the latest former Pro Bowl player to join the Bucs, but he may not be the last.
He spent the 2019 season with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he had career lows in rushing attempts (101) and yards (465) while scoring five touchdowns, including one receiving. Despite winning an NFL championship ring, he touched the ball only once in the playoffs – against the Titans – and did not have a stat in the Super Bowl.
McCoy said he was weighing offers from several teams, including the Eagles, where he spent the first six years of his career. But the Bucs needed to add some veteran depth at running back. Rookies Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Raymond Calais are on the reserve/Covid-19 list. Ronald Jones is the team’s leading rusher, and Dare Ogunbowale was used primarily as a third-down back.
“I think most guys, once (Brady) signed here and Rob (was traded) shortly afterward, a lot of guys wanted to play here,” McCoy said.
“But that’s kind of how it happened. I mean, they always had an interest level with me. ... It just clicked at the right time. Enough waiting. Let’s do it. Let’s get in there with the team. Let’s learn the offense, things like that. I mean, c’mon. I’m in Tampa. Nice weather. And I’m playing with Tom Brady? How can you beat that?”
McCoy’s stop in Kansas City was his second with coach Andy Reid, his first coach with the Eagles. A native of Harrisburg, Pa., McCoy was a second-round pick of in 2009 out of Pittsburgh, where he rushed for 2,816 yards and 35 touchdowns in two seasons.
Reid has called him “one of the shiftier backs in the league. He also has the hands of a wide receiver.”
The 5-foot-10, 215-pound McCoy likes to run inside but has spent a career wisely avoiding hits when possible.
He led the league with 1,609 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. In fact, six times McCoy has eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark, the most recent coming three seasons ago in Buffalo.
Even though McCoy became a forgotten man with the Chiefs, it didn’t slow his drive or love for the game.
McCoy said working out with 37-year-old Jets running back Frank Gore helped him arrive at the decision to continue playing.
“I think since I’ve been like a kid, I love to compete,” McCoy said.
“When somebody says you can’t do something, or ask can he still do something ... that makes you want to go. We worked out with the younger guys to see if we’ve still got it. And we beat up on the younger guys.
“I’ve been playing this game since I was 5 years old, so I look forward to playing. There’s going to be a time when it might be time to go. But it’s like when we’re competing against the younger guys and you’re giving them a run for their money, you say why would I stop?”
McCoy’s receiving skills could come in handy, too. Brady has more than 100 completions to running backs in each of his past five seasons. McCoy has had 40 or more receptions in seven seasons.
“That’s something I don’t think is too hard. I’ve beat linemen and linebackers in the hole and stuff like that,” he said.
“So just to run a route and beat a guy, I feel real comfortable with that. To get the ball in space, and also when you’re doing that, you become a threat.”
Not only does McCoy want another Super Bowl ring, he wants to be a big reason why the Bucs earn it.
“I had zero touchdowns and zero carries in the Super Bowl,” McCoy said.
“Just to be on this team and be able to help out and be part of it ... they’re doing something special here.”
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