Six NFL teams were slated to play on Thanksgiving, but all 32 squads were at work in some capacity on Thursday. It is a fact of life in the NFL – and in some other professions, to be sure – that work is required on certain holidays. For NFL players and coaches, it’s a minor inconvenience compared to the many positive aspects of the job.
Still, almost everybody wants to be with family and friends on Thanksgiving, and Buccaneer players are no exception. Head Coach Greg Schiano moved the start of Thursday’s practice up by approximately 90 minutes and let his players go home not long after it was over. The Buccaneers wouldn’t dream of skipping a day of preparation before Sunday’s critical home game against the 9-1 Falcons, but when their work was completed, they were ready for some turkey.
Some of the most fortunate Buccaneers are the ones that have extended family in the Bay area. Clearwater native Leonard Johnson, who is living the dream of playing for his hometown team, is in that group. Johnson has made a thrilling rise in the Buccaneers’ defense in the last month, playing extensively in the secondary and picking off a team-high three passes in that span, but he’s still most grateful for what was waiting at home Thursday.
“I’m thankful just for having the family that I have,” said Johnson. “I look around, and God put everyone in my life for a reason. I’m grateful for that, thankful for that. I’m just looking forward to spending time with my family, having some great food, listening to all their stories and joking with my cousins and my uncles. I’m really, really, really looking forward to just bonding with my family. I’m very family-oriented and I’m looking forward to that.”