NFL 2021 – Bucs begin defense of Super Bowl title

Champs face Cowboys in season opener

Dak Prescott leads the Dallas Cowboys in the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday on NBC.

Nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like the beginning of football season.

The good teams can’t wait to get another shot at a Super Bowl ring, the not-so-good teams are hoping an offseason influx of talent can change their fortunes and fans are just psyched to have their NFL Sundays back.

Broadcasters are getting on their game faces, too. That includes NBC’s Michele Tafoya, who will be reporting from the sidelines on Thursday, Sept. 9, when Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin defense of their Super Bowl LV crown when they usher in the 2021 season against Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will call the action from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on what has become known as “Kickoff Thursday.”

“That Thursday opener is special,” Tafoya says. “It’s a day during the week when there isn’t normally football and it’s that very first game and it’s prime time and it’s, you know, the Super Bowl champs. So yes, it feels like a special edition game for us.”

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers usher in the 2021 season against the Dallas Cowboys Thursday on NBC.

It will be special for the teams on the field as well. For the Bucs, they’re returning all 22 starters from the team that defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in February for the franchise’s second league title. They also have a deep roster, a relatively easy 2021 schedule and of course, Brady, the seemingly ageless 44-year-old quarterback with seven Super Bowl titles on his resume.

“This one in particular was the cherry on top,” Tafoya says, “and that’s why it kind of seems like he’s just got this attitude of, you know, ‘What have I got to lose? I’m playing at a high level. I continue to play at a high level. I continue to outperform every expectation and I feel great. So why stop now?’ And … he’s got (tight end) Rob Gronkowski back into his usual mode of playing, and it’s just been really fascinating to watch and something we’ve never seen before, which makes it historic.”

For the talented Cowboys, they’re just looking to put a dreadful 6-10 2020 season behind them, one that saw them lose quarterback Prescott for the season after he suffered a fractured ankle in Week 5.

“That loss of Dak Prescott last year was not just, ‘OK, our quarterback’s out,’ ” Tafoya explains. “You know, he’s really the face of the franchise … and it hurt kind of the soul of that football team to see him leave the field so emotionally the way he did. And so I think they’re just so ready to start this season and do what they believe they can do.

“And they’re Dallas,” she continues. “You know, whether you love them or hate them, everyone’s interested and it’s always a blast to cover the Cowboys. Always.”

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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