Hjalte Froholdt didn't have much time to think about what was next when he got called into a new position last Sunday against the Bills.
Froholdt started the game on the sidelines, but two plays in, he was crouched down with his hand over the football, listening to the snap calls from Jacoby Brissett. A backup offensive linemen, Froholdt had played guard for the injured Wyatt Teller in the four games prior to last Sunday, and another injury to Ethan Pocic forced Froholdt back into action in a different spot.
"That's kind of the role of a backup and swing guy," Froholdt said. "You've got your unit out there and you hope no one gets hurt — ever. But some bad situations happen, and that backup guy has to come in and step up whenever his number his called."
Froholdt's number will be called again for Week 12.
With Pocic on injured reserve, Froholdt is set to start his third game of the season and first at center Sunday against the Buccaneers. The fourth-year veteran is technically the fourth-string center on the depth chart with Nick Harris, Pocic and Michael Dunn all on injured reserve.
Although he's new to the position, Froholdt feels comfortable with all the added duties that come with being a center — from calling out looks from the defense at the line of scrimmage to snapping the football.
Froholdt did have a couple botched snap issues with Brissett last week, but the Denmark native put in extra time with Brissett on Friday, the one day of practice Froholdt was able to participate in this week due to illness, to build the chemistry.
"It's been going well," he said. "I think the connection there is good."
The blocking job should feel much easier for Froholdt, although he'll still have plenty of weight to keep in front of him this week. His opponent will be Vita Vea, a 6-foot-4, 346-pound Pro Bowl defensive tackle who is enjoying a career-best season in his fifth year in Tampa Bay with 6.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits.
"We've got to pay respect to Vita," Froholdt said. "He's a force on the inside in both the run and pass game, but you've got to go out, follow your rules and block him."
Fortunately for Froholdt, he'll have Pro Bowl help on either side of him.
Joel Bitonio will be stationed to his left and is on his way to possibly securing his fifth straight Pro Bowl. Teller, a 2021 Pro Bowler, will be to his right. They each rank second and sixth among guards in season grades from Pro Football Focus.
"It's great having Joel and Wyatt around me," he said. "As always, they're a huge help, and they were in the previous game as well. They're veteran guards that know the intricacies of the game, so it's awesome having them around me."
Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stefanski sees growth from Emerson
Another player who figures to be in a major role due to injuries to their position group is M.J. Emerson Jr., who could his second straight start and fifth total start of the season with Greg Newsome II ruled out due to a concussion.
A third-round rookie, Emerson has earned his way into a big role with the defense and has done an excellent job of taking on the usual amount of increased targets often thrown to most rookie defensive backs. He's been targeted 57 times, allowing 37 receptions but swatting away seven total passes, which is tied for the team lead with Denzel Ward.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski has seen Emerson gradually improve with his opportunities.
"He continues to get better," Stefanski said. "I really like the kid's mentality. He's a hard-nosed kid, plays physical and isn't afraid of those one-on-one matchups, which you often get as a rookie in this league; you're going to get some balls thrown at you. Quarterbacks and offenses, they're looking for rookies. He doesn't back down. I think he's been real impressive. I do think there is a growth to his game that I have seen over the course of this season."
Garrett eager to face Brady
Myles Garrett was too young to remember what the NFL looked like before Tom Brady's rise to superstardom.
"I don't think I was even old enough to remember the NFL back then," Garrett said. "I wasn't even watching the NFL back then. I was strictly basketball. As soon as my eyes opened to NFL, Brady was across my screen."
Garrett, 26, was 4 when Brady started his career in 2000. Garrett studied plenty of Brady as his love for football began to grow, but that was only because he also studied Peyton Manning, too, and recalled seeing the two go head-to-head in some of the greatest football games of the last two decades.
"I just always stuck with Peyton for as long as I can remember," he said. "I was also a big (former Colts WR) Reggie Wayne guy, and that combo with him and (Pro Football Hall of Fame and former Colts WR Marvin) Harrison was just deadly. I was a big (Pro Football Hall of Fame and former Patriots WR Randy) Moss guy, so when he went with Brady, I wasn't really complaining, but Peyton was just really fun to watch. I feel like his command over the field and then just putting the ball in spots that I didn't feel like anyone else could do at the time, and it just left an impression on me."
Garrett said he remembers when he sacked Brady in his first matchup against him in New England in 2019 and will be ready to take him down again Sunday.
"I was hoping I would get some more then (in that game)," he said with a smile. "I didn't think I was going to get another opportunity seeing as he retired for a little bit, but I guess he knew we were on his schedule, and he wanted to give me another chance."