TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Even on the water, it seems the connection on and off the field between Super Bowl champions quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski cannot be denied.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held a boat parade Wednesday to celebrate their championship on a sun-splashed day with thousands of fans lining the Hillsborough River near downtown Tampa.
At one point, Brady was captured on video tossing the NFL’s Lombardi Trophy from his boat across the water to a shirtless Gronkowski in another boat. That brought wild cheers from fans and players.
Of course, Brady threw two touchdown passes to the player affectionately known as “Gronk” in their 31-9 Super Bowl win over the Kansas City Chiefs. They connected numerous times when both were New England Patriots, and Brady lured Gronk out of retirement to play for the Buccaneers.
As the parade came to a close, head coach Bruce Arians said the Buccaneers could easily repeat as champions if the team stays intact. Brady already said he’ll be back.
“We have the best coaching staff in the NFL. And we damn sure have the best players in the NFL,” Arians said. “We’re going to keep the band together.”
Mayor Jane Castor had emphasized that people attending the parade needed to wear masks outdoors and observe social distancing rules.
It appeared many abided by the mask order but many others did not. There were also dozens of people on private boats, kayaks and other watercraft crowding the river to catch a glimpse of the team. They were directed to stay at least 50 feet (15 meters) from the boats carrying players.
After Tampa Bay’s win over Kansas City in Sunday’s title game, throngs of people gathered in the city’s entertainment districts. Many were seen maskless despite the orders requiring them.
For the Tampa Bay players and the team’s fans, celebrating their first Super Bowl win since 2003 was the main attraction on Wednesday.
“We just made history in all the world,” said linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul. “This means so much to me, I’ll do it again. We’re gonna do it again.”
Wide receiver Chris Godwin said the team came together at the right time. After a sluggish start, the Buccaneers reeled off eight straight wins to claim the championship.
“We fought all year. We stuck together. And now we’re world champions,” Godwin said.
Brian Ford, chief operating officer of the Buccaneers, said in video announcement that fans should heed the rules as they celebrate the team’s victory.
“It’s essential we do it the right way,” Ford said. “We want to do our part to ensure it’s done in a safe and responsible manner.”
Also Wednesday, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis lashed out at the news media when he suggested there is bias in coverage of the pandemic, particularly at the Super Bowl in Tampa.
“You don’t care as much when it’s a peaceful protest,” he said at an appearance in the city of Venice, south of Tampa. “You don’t care as much if you’re celebrating a (President Joe) Biden election. You only care about if it’s people you don’t like.”
DeSantis attended the Super Bowl and was photographed at times not wearing a mask despite a requirement to do so.
Associated Press writer Curt Anderson in St. Petersburg contributed to this story..