TAMPA, Fla. — Flanked by a swarm of media — the type of welcome typically reserved for superstar players — Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Andrew Adams glanced down at the tape on both wrists where he had written “4:13,” reciting the words to Philippians 4:13, and beamed.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. My mom sends me this text before every game [and] I write it on my tape just to remember,” he said.
“You know you’re a football player. Why are you watching games on Sunday? Why are you not playing?” Adams said of his time floating between teams. “It’s a little demoralizing, but you can’t let it get to you.”
It was the kind of game an undrafted free agent cast-off dreams about. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter gave Adams three game balls to represent each pick.
“You definitely dream about interceptions, but three in one game? No,” said Adams, who signed with the Bucs on Sept. 25 and had only one pick in 38 career games prior to Sunday. “But, it’s just a blessing. I give all glory to God.”
It did take some divine intervention for it to happen.
The Bucs were down to one defensive back of the five who had started the season — safety Justin Evans — and he had left the game with a toe injury. Safety Isaiah Johnson, who started four games this season, was being evaluated for a concussion, and the Bucs had to turn to their third, fourth and fifth safeties and their fifth, sixth and seventh cornerbacks.
They also had just one starting linebacker in Lavonte David. That made Adams, who defensive coordinator Mark Duffner created a special dime package for out of necessity because of so many injuries, that much more vital.
“He [Adams] played all over today,” David said. “I believe he had an interception at free safety, he had an interception at playing dime. … It’s a testament to how he prepares and how he studies.”
Adams’ first interception came on a dig route, with David diving to break up the pass before it landed in Adams’ hands.
On the second one, Adams was coming down in the slot, with nickelback Javien Elliott blitzing, and the Panthers tried to use a double move (post-corner). Adams sat on the route and leaped up to grab the ball intended for Jarius Wright.
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On the third pick, with 5:15 to go, Adams was in the middle of the field and Newton tried to look him off one way and throw down the seam the other, but Adams remained disciplined. As soon as Newton threw it, he dove for it.
“When you get a chance, when you get a shot like that, especially [after] getting released, man — he had a lot to prove and he just came out here and did his job,” said former Giants teammate Jason Pierre-Paul. “I’m so happy for him, man. I’m so happy for him. You just don’t know how much.”
Quarterback Jameis Winston, who now calls Adams “Triple A” (instead of his normal nickname of Double A) added: “I love it. That’s just so resilient, you know? The game that we play we have to be resilient, we have to persevere through anything.”
Adams said he never lost faith.
“You can’t let hard circumstances define you. Whenever you get your opportunity, you just have to make the most of it. That’s really what I live by.”