Bruce Arians Talks Heart Health, Tom Brady and Buccaneers’ Expectations

One of the major headlines of the NFL offseason, especially when training camp opened up was: “Where is Tom Brady?” Rumors swirled that he took time off to be on “The Masked Singer” or that he was on vacation.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion was absent from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first 11 days of training camp due to “personal reasons.” After returning on August 22, the 45-year-old didn’t miss a beat with one member of the Bucs organization saying Brady was “on fire,” while tight end Cameron Brate said Brady was “firing on all cylinders.”

Former Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians, who is now a senior football consultant with the organization, said that somehow Brady, who continues to laugh in the face of Father Time, may be better than he was when he first joined the organization in March 2020 after signing a two-year contract worth $50 million in fully guaranteed money. Brady heads into his 23rd professional season as the highest-paid NFL player according to Forbes.

“It’s amazing because he’s throwing the ball better than he did when he showed up two or three years ago,” Arians says. “He takes such good care of himself and he has a regimen that works for him. I don’t know if anybody else could run it. I know (backup quarterback) Blaine Gabbert’s trying it and he looks fantastic. That TB12 Method is definitely something to look into. I can’t do it. I tried. I can’t drink that much water.”

While Brady, who is coming off a career-high 5,316 passing yards while leading the NFL with 43 TDs passes last season, is utilizing his own regimen for success, Arians, 69, has had to reevaluate his after a series of health scares.

Arians, the oldest coach to win the Super Bowl when he led the Bucs to victory in Super Bowl LV at 68 years old, has had to overcome his share of health obstacles lately, including prostate cancer in 2007, having skin cancer cells removed from his nose in 2013 and being rushed to the hospital in August 2016 with renal cell carcinoma, a type of cancer affecting the kidneys; he had part of his kidney removed in 2017.

After a 30-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in November 2016, the then-head coach of the Arizona Cardinals was rushed to the hospital for the second time in less than five months—this time with chest pains as a result of high cholesterol.

“It was a total wake up call,” says Arians, who is working with Novartis on their new Coaching Cholesterol campaign. “You have to make time—10 minutes, 20 minutes—for exercise and you can feel the change. I changed my diet totally. I tried to be a vegan but it didn’t work out. I got the right medications and got it under control. I feel great now.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One person dies every 34 seconds in the U.S. from cardiovascular disease. 

“It was a big, big part of me retiring in Arizona,” says Arians, who retired in 2017 despite having one year left on his contract. “Between that scare and the cancer scare also. It was like ‘Enough’s enough.’ I got pretty healthy and decided let’s go do it again. I stayed healthier this time. I kept losing weight and feel a lot better now.”

With the stars aligned between the head coaching vacancy in Tampa Bay, his relationship with general manager Jason Licht and having his entire coaching staff available, Arians thought “You’re supposed to do this,” and joined the organization on January 8, 2019.

In his second season at the helm, Arians and Brady guided the Bucs to the franchise’s second Super Bowl title with a 31-9 drubbing of defending champions Kansas City.

Despite going 13-4 in 2021 and losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in the NFC divisional round, Arians announced on March 30 he would step down as head coach and assume a new role as a senior football consultant. That same day, the organization promoted defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to head coach.

The new role allows Arians to have more balance in his life both personally and professionally.

“I’m at practice every day standing behind the quarterbacks where I’ve always stood,” Arians says. “I meet with the personnel guys and offensive coaches a little bit then go play golf. It’s the best of both worlds. (I’m hitting them) a lot better. I was really struggling with that torn Achilles.”

With Brady back and new weapons added on both sides of the ball including wide receiver Julio Jones and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, Arians says expectations are high in Tampa with all eyes on State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, home to Super Bowl LVII on February 12.

“They don’t change—win the division, get in the playoffs, win the Super Bowl,” Arians says. “ … I feel like this is probably the best-talented roster we’ve ever had.

“It’s Super Bowl or bust.”

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney

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