Tom Brady is 44-years-old and still playing at an MVP level. Everybody stopped trying to guess when he would walk away from football years ago and are now either enjoying the ride or counting the moments until he does say goodbye, depending on one's personal opinion of the all-time great. But on Sunday, unprompted reports arose that another year is not guaranteed for Brady.
As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter the reality that their season is, at most, three weeks from its conclusion, there is another reality lingering over the organization: the possibility of Tom Brady's retirement.
Sources with the Bucs and close to Brady all recognize the star quarterback remains noncommittal to playing beyond this season. Although Brady could decide to play again -- he has talked about playing until he was 45, and even beyond -- it is far from a given, sources told ESPN.
Brady's departure is a topic that quietly has come up within the Tampa Bay organization for weeks now, and there has been internal uncertainty about what the future holds for the seven-time Super Bowl champion and all-time NFL passing leader.
Brady, 44, plans to take time after the season ends -- a month or longer -- to assess how he feels physically and mentally while also gauging his family's desires, sources told ESPN.
Jeff Howe of The Athletic reported something similar later this morning.
Now, none of this is anywhere near a solid report that Brady will retire. Just as his return is not a given, neither is retirement. But over the last eight or so years, we've never heard anything like this. Brady is always insistent to the cameras that he'll play as long as he physically feels he still has it. Nobody has ever reported anything different behind the scenes. It appears he is seriously considering it for the first time ever.
It makes a certain amount of sense. Everything went perfectly for the Buccaneers last year and it led to Brady's seventh Super Bowl ring. This year, not so much. Tampa Bay was devastated with injuries defensively all season long and lost Chris Godwin on offense for the year to a torn ACL. Two of Brady's linemen got hurt in their Wild Card game against the Eagles. Legendary competitors like Brady surely enjoy adversity to some degree, but there comes a point where things aren't quite as fun.
Then there's the whole Antonio Brown saga. Brady declined to give his feelings on the matter to reporters, but it is safe to assume that he did not enjoy watching a person he vouched for have a complete meltdown on the sideline and go on a subsequent media tour bashing both Brady and his coworkers. Just as with the injury situation, it was not all sunshine and roses in 2021 like it was in 2020.
And while it was not necessarily the intent of the project, Brady's Man In The Arena series on ESPN+ sure feels like something of a retirement tour. He revisited the key moments in his career, both good and bad, that made him into the man he is today. The episodes were released in the middle of the season. If Brady were to walk away after this year, it would be fitting.
Brady also has a lot going on outside football, more than your average player. He has his whole TB12 enterprise and just released a clothing line with Nordstrom. The aforementioned series with ESPN+ was a pretty successful endeavor and could be something else for Brady to dive into. The plethora of options to fill his time without football will surely play a factor in his considerations.
We don't know what will happen. But if the Bucs lose to the Rams today, it sure seems like anything is possible.