QB Tom Brady to return to Tampa Bay Buccaneers early this week

TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is expected to return to the team this week, coach Todd Bowles announced Sunday. Bowles did not provide a specific date, but said, "It'll be this week, early."

Brady has been away from the team since Aug. 11 to tend to what has been described as "personal things." Bowles said it was something agreed upon weeks ago and that the team supported Brady, who has kept in touch with the coaching staff during his absence.

Bowles said a decision has not yet been made on whether Brady will see action in this week's third and final preseason game at the Indianapolis Colts.

"Not yet. We'll see how practice goes and we'll make those decisions at the end of the week," Bowles said.

In the past, teams have used the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the starters, although the preseason as a whole has seen a diminishing level of importance in recent years, primarily because coaches see the risk for injuries being too great and they want to give backups as much playing time as possible. The Buccaneers' focus this preseason has been to give second-year quarterback Kyle Trask as many reps as possible.

Several starters and high-profile Bucs players have not participated in the preseason yet this year because of injury, the need to assess depth, or to not incur unnecessary risk. Those players include wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Julio Jones, Russell Gage, right tackle Tristan Wirfs, left tackle Donovan Smith, right guard Shaq Mason, outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, inside linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White, cornerback Carlton Davis III and safety Antoine Winfield Jr.

In addition to his current absence, Brady has missed four days of camp in late July and early August. He has been given off days in the past, but this is the first time in 23 years he has taken a significant amount of time away from the team during training camp or the preseason. He did miss OTAs while he was with the New England Patriots in 2018 to spend more time with his family, but those practices are optional and take place in the spring, long before the regular season begins.

All of Brady's absences with the Bucs in 2022 have been approved by the team, although it is highly unusual for NFL teams to grant that sort of flexibility.

Brady finds himself in a challenging situation. Not only is Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen out for a significant period due to a knee injury, but the Bucs lost left guard Aaron Stinnie, who was competing for a starting role, to a torn ACL/MCL Saturday night. Evans is also still nursing a hamstring injury and Godwin is still recovering from an ACL injury, although he is making progress and is now participating in some 7-on-7 work.