Tom Brady will enter his 23rd professional season without his starting center.
It's not ideal for any quarterback, much less one attempting to win yet another Super Bowl, but it's the legend's reality as the calendar turns to August. He and his Buccaneers teammates are still processing the news with the hope Ryan Jensen's replacement, second-year lineman Robert Hainsey, can fill in effectively.
"He's worked really hard," Brady said of Hainsey on Monday. "Heartbroken with happened to Ryan (Jensen). That will take a little time, but [Hainsey's] gotta step into the job and do a great job. He's worked last year and really [earned] the trust of a lot of people. He's gotta go earn it. So, like all of us, it's not what you did, how hard you worked in the offseason, it's how good of a football player are you. It's to be determined for all of us."
Tampa Bay lost Jensen -- a tough center who ranked in the upper half of players at his position in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Reference -- to a knee injury suffered during training camp last week. Jensen's production with the title-contending Buccaneers earned him his first Pro Bowl selection in 2021, but his departure leaves a void Hainsey will be tasked with filling in an ever-important 2022 campaign.
Hainsey appeared in nine games as a rookie in 2021, playing a small handful of offensive and special teams snaps. The former Notre Dame tackle spent his time on offense at center, but never saw more than 10 offensive snaps in a single game.
With the remainder of camp ahead, Hainsey will have the benefit of getting his feet beneath him and he'll certainly have quality teammates pushing him to improve before the season kicks off.
"I think it is going to be huge," right tackle Tristan Wirfs said recently, via JoeBucsFan.com. "Still, for me, going against Shaq (Barrett) every day, Shaq is an incredible edge rusher. I'm seeing all of his moves every day. He gets me [some plays] and I get him [some plays].
"With Hainsey seeing (Akiem) Hicks and (Vita) Vea, you are not going to find two bigger, better interior guys in the league. So he is getting the best work he can possibly get. It's just going to help him be prepared for when that time comes."
That time will come in September. The Buccaneers will hope he'll be ready for the bright lights by then.