Tuesday's NFL: Tom Brady, champion Buccaneers visit Biden at White House

By Stephen Whyno
Associated Press

Washington — President Joe Biden welcomed Tom Brady and the Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the White House on Tuesday, the first visit by the reigning NFL champions since 2017.

It was Brady’s first visit since 2005 with the New England Patriots when George W. Bush was in office. Brady, the former Michigan quarterback, has won the Super Bowl during four different administrations but skipped visits by the Patriots in 2015 with Barack Obama and 2017 with Donald Trump.

President Joe Biden, surrounded by members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, poses for a photo holding a jersey during a ceremony Tuesday on the South Lawn of the White House, where Biden honored the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers for their Super Bowl LV victory. Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, right, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians look on.

The Patriots as a team chose not to attend after winning in 2019.

Brady was front and center, accompanying Biden, coach Bruce Arians and owner Bryan Glazer into the ceremony, which included jokes about age and the election and a push from the president for players to get vaccinated against the coronavirus if they hadn’t already.

Brady, the seven-time Super Bowl champion, put on quite the comedy routine, comparing the Buccaneers’ run to Biden’s election victory.

“Not a lot of people think that we could have won, and in fact I think about 40% of the people still don’t think we won,” Brady said with a big grin. “We had a game in Chicago where I forgot what down it was. I lost track of one down in 21 years of playing, and they started calling me ‘Sleepy Tom.’ Why they do that to me?”

Biden was presented with the traditional gift of a No. 46 jersey — which Glazer said was appropriate since Tampa Bay is heading into its 46th season as a franchise.

Players Donovan Smith and Bradley Pinion from the team’s social justice committee met with Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday morning to talk about voting rights.

Talking about how nearly 200,000 vaccine doses were given out at Raymond James Stadium — the Buccaneers’ home and where they won the Super Bowl — Biden turned to dozens of players behind him and said: “If you don’t have a shot, get one, OK? Get one, get one, get one. You’re saving lives, helping us get back to our lives and our loved ones.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not directly answer when asked if the Buccaneers provided information on which team attendees were vaccinated. As of Friday, 10 NFL teams had reached the threshold of 85% of their traveling party fully vaccinated, though it was not immediately clear if Tampa Bay was one of them.

Before Brady took the microphone, Arians told Biden he wished the House and Senate would help the president fulfill “one goal” as a country, like his Buccaneers did last season.

Biden singled out receiver Chris Godwin, like himself Pennsylvania-born and Delaware-raised, who he spoke with before the Super Bowl. As the oldest person to become president, he compared himself to Brady being the oldest quarterback and Arians the oldest coach to win it all.

“You won’t hear any jokes about that from me,” Biden said. “As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with being the oldest guy to make it to the mountaintop.”

►Time limits set for Hall of Famers’ acceptance speeches: In 2016, Brett Favre spoke for 36 minutes in one of the most memorable Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speeches ever, a mark that was topped by Tony Gonzalez’s 39-minute address in 2019.

Nobody will challenge those marks next month when the classes of 2020 and 2021 are enshrined in Canton, Ohio.

The 19 members of those combined classes who will be giving enshrinement speeches have been asked to limit their remarks to six minutes. An Academy Awards-style musical cue will end each speech at 8 minutes if necessary.

“So, they’re saying there’s like a blinking light at six minutes, maybe a little bell going off at seven minutes and then at eight minutes, they say that someone’s going to come up and lead the applause to end the speech,” said Peyton Manning, a member of the Class of 2021.

“I look forward to seeing them come up and lead the applause while Alan Faneca is still speaking,” Manning cracked. “Good luck getting him off the stage. Or anybody that’s an offensive linemen is probably tough to pull.”

Manning said the inductees have communicated via a group text “about everybody trying to honor that to be respectful of the person behind you and have everybody have their time.”

The Centennial Class wasn’t enshrined last year because of the pandemic, so the weekend will mark the largest number of inductees in the Hall of Fame’s history, making time limits on speeches especially important.

“I hear it’s been a great point of emphasis in years past, but I don’t think it’s been stressed very well,” Manning said.

Or adhered to, actually.

Harold Carmichael will deliver the first speech on the night of Saturday, Aug. 7 when the Centennial Class of 2020 is honored. Drew Pearson, whose career overlapped with Carmichael’s for 11 seasons, will lead off the speeches the following night when the Class of 2021 is enshrined.

There are a dozen speeches from the Class of 2020, with Bill Cowher wrapping things up on the first night.

Interspersed with the 12 live speeches Saturday are video tributes for the eight members of the class elected posthumously, each of whom was enshrined in a special ceremony on April 28 in Canton.

On Sunday, Aug. 8, Pearson will lead the seven members of the Class of 2021 in delivering their enshrinement speeches. Charles Woodson goes last, and there also will be a video tribute to former Steelers scout Bill Nunn, who was enshrined in April.

Manning said he’s putting the finishing touches on his speech and “I’m right there at 7 minutes and 50 seconds as we speak.”

“Unfortunately, it’s just not enough time to thank everybody,” Manning said. “The good thing is for the past 5 years, either on a handwritten note or a phone call or in person, I’ve had a chance to thank the people personally. So, even though I won’t get to repeat them all in the speech, the thank-you’s are as heartfelt now as they were then.”