Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady will be missing one of his key protectors after center Ryan Jensen was carted off the field with a left knee injury during Thursday's practice.
While Brady is confident in second-year center Robert Hainsey, he admitted that the team is feeling the effects of Jensen's absence.
"He’s worked really hard," Brady said of Hainsey, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. "Obviously, everyone is heartbroken with what happened to Ryan, so it will take a little time. But [Hainsey] has got to step into the job and do a great job."
Tampa Bay head coach Todd Bowles told reporters last week that Jensen is expected to miss "months" with the unspecified injury. The 10-year veteran is undergoing further evaluation on Monday to determine a timetable for his recovery.
A third-round pick out of Notre Dame last year, Hainsey appeared in nine games as a rookie. It will be difficult to replace Jensen, who was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2021, but Brady believes Hainsey is capable of proving himself.
"He worked hard last year [and] really gained the trust of a lot of people. He's got to go earn it," Brady said. "Like all of us, it's not what you did in the offseason, it's how good of a football player are you? It's to be determined for all of us."
Brady, who turns 45 on Wednesday, is back for a 23rd season as he hopes to lead Tampa Bay to a second Super Bowl in three years. The Bucs added a couple veteran weapons for Brady in wideout Julio Jones and tight end Kyle Rudolph. However, Jensen's injury has caused Brady to temper expectations because he knows things can change prior to the Sept. 11 season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.
"Nobody knows what the team is going to look like," Brady said. "You think you have a center, and then he gets injured. The team is different in one day. So it’s long time between now and the first game."