TAMPA, Fla. — The day after the Bucs’ season ended, Pro Bowl right tackle Tristan Wirfs sat down with coach Todd Bowles and was told that the team was probably moving him to left tackle.
It had always been a possibility, even a logical move, with Wirfs a dominant force on the right side of the line and the Bucs deciding to move on from Donovan Smith, their starter at left tackle for the previous eight years. And now, as Wirfs goes through offseason workouts at a new position this spring, it’s important for him to attend even voluntary workouts to ease his transition to the other side.
He’s only 24 and has already been a first-team All-Pro selection. He’s also a two-time Pro Bowler who played every snap of a Super Bowl championship season as a rookie protecting Tom Brady. Knowing how good he’s been on the right side, how often does he wonder if he’ll be able to match that success on the left?
“Every day,” Wirfs said Tuesday after an OTA practice ahead of next week’s mandatory minicamp. “I have very high expectations of myself. I don’t want to let anybody else down, so it’s just doing my best to keep those thoughts positive, to kind of just take every day as an opportunity to get better. I think about that all day, every day.”
Wirfs has played left tackle before — out of 33 career games at Iowa, he started four on the left side, including three his final year in 2019. But every snap he’s played in three NFL seasons and 52 games has been at right tackle, so he’s going from an extremely high comfort level to the uncertainty of training his body to work as a mirror image of what he’s known.
“I’ve had thousands of reps on the right side, and I’m going in as a newborn baby on the left,” said Wirfs, who will be adjusting everything from his weight placement to which hands he’s throwing against an oncoming pass-rusher. “It’s all different. It’s so similar. You’re doing the same stuff, but it’s all flipped.”
The Bucs gave up an NFL-low 22 sacks last season, but that was very much a function of Brady getting rid of the ball quickly, sometimes at the expense of downfield passing in favor of his own survival at age 45. The Bucs will have either Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask at quarterback this fall, both much younger and more mobile than Brady, but are presented with a new challenge due to there being potentially three new starters in five spots.