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Buccaneers LT Tristan Wirfs 'grateful' to have blocked for Tom Brady: 'I hope I made him proud'

2023 is certain to have a different feel in Tampa Bay following the retirement of Tom Brady, especially for Buccaneers right tackle Tristan Wirfs.

Since being drafted with the No. 13 overall pick in 2020, Wirfs has known no other responsibility than protecting a future Hall of Fame quarterback. Speaking with NFL Network's Cameron Wolfe on Saturday, Wirfs said he and the team are overall appreciative of their time playing with Brady.

"From what I've seen, everybody is really grateful," Wirfs said at Saturday's Pro Bowl practice in Las Vegas. "Grateful to have been able to play with him. He's the greatest of all time. I was really happy to get to protect him for as long as I did.

"I hope I made him proud. I hope I did alright. But I'm just really happy for him."

Wirfs did more than alright during his three years blocking for Brady. The 24-year-old was a rookie starter during Tampa Bay's Super Bowl-winning run in 2020 and was named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl in 2022 despite missing four games due to injury.

Although Brady initially announced his retirement this time last year before deciding to come back, Wirfs isn't expecting the same thing to happen this time around.

"No, I wouldn't say I'm holding out (hope)," said Wirfs. "I think he's done for good and I'm happy for him. He gets to ride off into the sunset as the best to ever do it, so it's pretty cool."

Brady's absence will be felt for a Buccaneers team that made the playoffs in all three of his seasons in Tampa.

Following a win in Super Bowl LV, Brady led the league with 5,316 passing yards and 43 touchdowns before getting beat by the eventual Super Bowl-champion Rams in the Divisional Round in 2021. The Brady-led Bucs struggled offensively in 2022 despite winning the NFC South and earning a home playoff game. Those struggles persisted in a wild-card loss to Dallas where the Bucs mustered just 14 points.

An added layer to that scenery without Brady is the Buccaneers moving on from offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich after four seasons with the team. While Tampa continues its search for a new OC, Wirfs will be relied upon as one of the veteran leaders going into 2023 and beyond.

"He has been our identity for a while," Wirfs said of Brady's absence. "Doing our best to create a good, positive culture. Something I always say to all my teammates is we can control our attitude and effort, so I think just coming in with that every day at practice, OTAs, minicamp, training camp. Just doing our best to set ourselves on the right path."

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