Tom Brady, Buccaneers embracing first Christmas sport

The novelty of taking part in an NFL sport on Christmas is completely new for the Buccaneers and for Tom Brady, who will respectively achieve this for the primary time Sunday after avoiding the vacation all through the franchise’s first 46 years and the quarterback’s first 22 seasons.

Particularly for a street workforce just like the Bucs, who face the Cardinals throughout the nation in Arizona, it means time away from household on the at some point that is not often the case. The NFL may have three such video games Sunday, probably the most it is ever scheduled, however the league has a Christmas historical past going again 51 years.

Ask Larry Csonka, and there isn’t any higher strategy to have fun the vacation than with a victory, nonetheless lengthy it takes.

“When you played football for a guy named Shula, holidays, bar mitzvahs, it doesn’t matter,” the Corridor of Fame operating again stated by telephone this week with fun, remembering a 1971 playoff sport towards the Chiefs. “Football comes first when you play for him. And certainly in the playoffs, it was very serious. I’m sure there was some momentary hesitation to observe Christmas in some capacity, but it was pretty much keep your nose to the grindstone.”

Csonka wasn’t simply taking part in on Christmas in 1971 — he was additionally celebrating his twenty fifth birthday that day, simply as Sunday will likely be his 76th. He had a landing run amongst 24 carries that day, nonetheless remembering a hard-hitting Chiefs protection loaded with future Corridor of Famers.

“It was not a birthday party,” Csonka stated. “I really have high respect for Willie Lanier, Curley Culp, Bobby Bell, and if I had a birthday party, I’d invite them. But if anyone pulled out a football, I’d be inclined to make sure it got thrown out the window.”

That playoff sport, one among two performed that day, stays the longest in NFL historical past, the Dolphins and Chiefs staying tied all via a 15-minute extra time and for one more seven minutes and 40 seconds in a second extra time earlier than Miami prevailed. Csonka vividly remembers an Related Press picture from the tip of the sport, exhibiting him in his No. 39 jersey, trying to the sky in exhaustion. That image is featured in his current memoir, “Head On,” and he jokes that in that second, he was glad they gained the sport and glad the sport was over, and never essentially in that order.

Again within the time of 14-game schedules, an NFL common season was often over earlier than Christmas, so any schedule overlap got here within the playoffs, and the league largely averted the vacation for a very long time. When Christmas fell on a Sunday in 1977, 1983 and 1988, the league cut up its playoff video games between Saturday and Monday that weekend in reverence.

In 1989, the NFL scheduled its regular-season finale for a Monday night time on Christmas, and the Bengals not solely needed to journey to Minnesota, they missed the playoffs with a detailed loss that gifted the Steelers a wild-card berth as an alternative. From there, the NFL slowly embraced taking part in on Christmas, with single video games six occasions between 1993-2000, then two every the following time the vacation fell on a weekend from 2004-06, then again to single video games from 2009-11, ramping again as much as twice in recent times.

In all, there have been 24 NFL video games performed on Christmas. The Cowboys, who performed and gained on the street that first 12 months in 1971 on the way in which to beating the Dolphins and Csonka within the Tremendous Bowl, have probably the most Christmas appearances with 5, however the Cardinals, Packers, Dolphins and Broncos on Sunday will quickly be part of the Vikings with 4.

The Bucs and Rams will make their Christmas debuts Sunday, leaving solely eight NFL groups but to play on Dec. twenty fifth: the Jaguars, Patriots, Payments, Commanders, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks and 49ers.

Brady would not expertise many NFL firsts at age 45, however talked on his SiriusXM podcast this week in regards to the private problem of delaying Christmas actions along with his household to handle enterprise on Sunday.

“It’ll be a new experience that I’ve never had before that I’m going to learn how to deal with, and I think that’s what life’s about,” Brady stated. “I’m going to learn how to deal with Christmas Eve in a hotel, and I’m going to have to learn how to deal with Christmas and Christmas night and still go out there and be a professional, and then look forward to celebrating Christmas with my kids the day after.”

Bucs coach Todd Bowles has coached on Christmas as soon as, dropping at dwelling to the Eagles as a Cowboys assistant in 2006. And whereas he is a big Christmas fan, even sharing his top-five Christmas songs to reporters this week, he stated his gamers know learn how to pull collectively and deal with successful a sport for 3 hours, hoping to unwrap a win alongside the way in which.

“If you’re on the road, it’s kind of tough, because there’s nothing on in the hotel but the yule log,” he stated. “Other than that, you kind of focus and refocus. It’s kind of like playing on Thanksgiving a little bit — if you’re at a home game, everybody’s there, you’ve got your family and everything. If you’re on the road, all you have is each other. You get bonding time and you go play the game.”

The Bucs have a lot on the road Sunday, clinging to a one-game lead atop the NFC South standings with three weeks left and figuring out they’ll clinch a division title by merely successful their subsequent two video games. Tampa Bay has by no means gained back-to-back division titles in its historical past, so any want checklist going into this season would have began with that on the high.

“I’ve never experienced this one,” offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich stated. “This one is a little different. It’s too important of a ballgame to worry about what day it’s on. We could [not] care less what day. Our families and everybody understand that, that we’re really locked in and have our minds on something bigger than the day of Christmas. We’ll get back home and we’ll enjoy our time with our families when we can.”

For Bucs gamers, the thought of taking part in on Christmas brings again a nostalgia to their childhood, once they’d get up and open presents, watch a sport on tv after which go exterior and play with a brand new soccer.

“I’m excited about it, personally,” stated receiver Russell Gage, who caught two landing passes in final week’s loss to the Bengals. “Growing up, I watched games on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving, and I was like ‘That’s awesome. You get to play on a holiday like this? I’m going to go outside in the yard and play football with my friends.’ So we get to play on this day, and we’re playing for something, playing with purpose. We’ve got a lot of things at stake, and I’ve personally never been in the playoffs, so I’m excited.”

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Greg Auman is FOX Sports activities’ NFC South reporter, overlaying the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He’s in his tenth season overlaying the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having frolicked on the Tampa Bay Instances and The Athletic. You may observe him on Twitter at @gregauman.

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