TAMPA, Fla. — All season long, he never changed his routine. Stay at home, go to work at the Bucs’ training center and then return home. The only other place he went was to the stables to check on his horses.
When trainer Bobby Slater called Devin White a couple weeks ago to tell the Bucs linebacker he had COVID-19, he thought it was just a false positive.
“They know I’m not outside, like, you know, going out to the bar or nothing,” White said. “I’m just, like, go to work, go home, go by the barn or something and nobody is at the barn, obviously. They’re like, ‘We’ll just check again and hopefully it’s a false test,’ but I kept testing positive.”
White missed the regular-season finale against the Falcons. He planned to rejoin his team for the NFC wild-card game at Washington. Then fate intervened when the NFL scheduled it for Saturday, the day before he was cleared to play.
Linebacker Kevin Minter played well in White’s place, recording nine tackles against the Falcons and deflecting a pass that was intercepted in the 31-23 win over Washington.
“But he’s not Devin,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Bringing Devin’s passion, his energy (and) his speed ― hopefully he can get after the quarterback some like he’s been doing so well. You’re bringing back one of the top players in the league.”
White was back in the saddle again on Wednesday. A few minutes past 11 a.m., he walked onto the Bucs’ practice field and exchanged a few hugs with teammates.
If White can wrap his arms around Saints quarterback Drew Brees a few times in Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game, the Bucs may find themselves 60 minutes from Super Bowl 55.
It’s hard to quantify what White means to the Bucs’ defense. He leads them with 140 tackles and is second on the club with nine sacks. He had hoped to eclipse the 145 tackles Lavonte David had in 2013, his second year in the NFL.
“I was trying to beat his second-year tackle thing, just a little inside thing between me and him,” White said. “And I missed the last game, so I knew I wasn’t going to be close.