He can't give you an exact date, but we now know when Tom Brady will call it quits and hang up his football jersey for the last time.
Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks every to play in the NFL, but at 37-years-old, questions often come up about how long he will continue to suit up for the Patriots.
In his weekly appearance on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan morning show, the Patriots quarterback was asked about retirement and if he plans on playing in New England for the remainder of his career.
“There's nowhere I'd rather play, I know that,” Brady said stopping short of saying he'd never play for another team. “I love playing for this team and I love representing this team and hopefully I can do that for as long as I can. When I suck, I’ll retire. But I don’t plan on sucking for a long time. So hopefully that leads me to being here and there’s no place I’d rather be. I love this game and I love working hard at it. I've had a lot of people over the years tell me the things I couldn't do and I think that’s always been great motivation for me to try to go out there an accomplish things that I think I can do so hopefully I can continue to play at a really high level for a long period of time.
Brady was asked if it bothered him to see his boyhood idol finish his career in a Kansas City Chiefs uniform. He would only say that these things represent the business side of football and he didn't know what went into those decisions at that time.
Getting back to the season at hand, Brady spoke about having tight end Rob Gronkowski -- who was cleared to play this week -- back on the field for the opener in Miami.
"The more guys we can have out there, the better," Brady said. "We just started the week of practice, so I think everyone’s trying to get out there, learn each other and the final roster has finally been picked, and whoever's on the active roster really has to be ready to go. So we’re going to need contributions from everybody. If Gronk can be one of those guys, then I think that makes our team better but we've got a lot of plans. We've made contingency plans for everybody being out and that’s just what we have to do.”
Brady spoke about what it means to him personally to have the big tight end target back.
“Him being a teammate for the last, I don’t know, four years, we know what he can bring to the team, what his ability is when he’s out there, and what he’s capable of by not only his own ability, but how that helps the other guys, too," Brady said. "Because it’s hard to put one guy on him and just think that guy can hold up all game. So then you may get more zone coverage, then you may get double coverage. They’re going to figure out their schemes to stop your best player. That’s what good defenses do. They try to identify what an offense’s strength is, and then they’ve got to shut that down.
We've got to try to identify what a defense’s strengths are and try to shut those things down. We've got a good group of guys. If they’re going to cover Gronk, then we've got to throw to the other guys. And when he’s out there, he’s obviously a great target because of his size, his speed, his agility, his ability to catch the football in traffic. And that’s what he’s done over the course of his career. That’s why he’s got so many touchdowns, because he’s got such a big catch radius that you put the ball in certain areas and he can go up and make the play but like I said, if they cover him, then there’s other options. We've got a lot of guys that I’m excited about. I’m really excited about our offense and the work that we've put in, guys really finding a role for themselves. That all really gets a chance to go out and prove it this weekend… There can’t be one wasted play this weekend.”
Naturally, Brady was asked about longtime lineman Logan Mankins, who was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a week ago.
“I haven’t really spoken to anybody about it,” Brady said. “I have my own personal feelings that obviously are very personal to me and whatever those are, I just want our team to be the best it can be for this year. I love Logan. Logan was a great friend of mine and nobody stood for Patriot football more than him. But he’s moved on. I hope he’s happy. We’ll keep in touch.
“We've got a game to win. I can’t really think too much about what happened in the past. Like I said, yeah, I dealt with whatever feelings I had last week, but I’ve moved on. I’ve got to move on, because that’s what this team expects me to do. With Miami coming in, the only thought on my mind is how I can be the best quarterback against them and how I can try to go out there and lead my teammates and be a great example and be a great motivator and bring the enthusiasm and energy for the team because without that then we have less opportunity to win. And you guys know me, I like winning.”
Brady was asked if it's gotten any easier to deal with the business side of football, that often finds teammates being shown the door.
“Absolutely not,” Brady said. “I’m a very person-to-person type of person. I’m a very emotional person. I don’t think those things have ever gotten easier for me and I don’t think they ever will. But you've got to come to grips with it also, and learn to deal with things in a mature way. We as players, the business side of things, we’re there to play, we aren't there to run businesses.
"We’re there to enjoy the camaraderie with our teammates, enjoy the playing experience with our teammates. We play for one another, and you deal with whatever comes up and then you move forward. So I think that’s part of the sport and being that it’s happened, I know it’s going to happen next year, too, I know it’s going to happen the year after that, the year after that — for as long as you continue playing here you’re going to be dealing with this but now we've got a chance to move forward, to move forward with the start of the year. And you've got to bring the best attitude you can when it matters to the most, which is now.”
Brady expanded upon what’s it like when players move on after he's spent so much time with them over the years.
“All these things that happen, they happen really quick,” Brady said. “I know coach said there were 800 transactions or something on Saturday. You show up to work one day, everyone’s there, you've got 90 guys or whatever, and the next day you show up and there’s 53. So you don’t have really time to sit around a table and talk about how great things have been … Ryan’s particular situation he’s moving on with his life, and the Patriots move on. You wish each other luck. We’ll always keep in touch. I keep in touch with Matt Cassel and Damon Huard and Brian Hoyer. I keep in touch with all these guys. These are my friends. It’s not football, it’s personal. Those guys will be friends for the rest of my life, certainly Ryan will be, too. You spend three years of all this emotion and energy you spend together and you have friendships.
"That’s what is one of the really gratifying parts about playing professional sports, is the relationships that you build with the people that matter so much in your life because you make such a sacrifice for them, and they make such a sacrifice for you. So these things are never easy. It doesn't take away from any personal relationship. It’s a business relationship that the organization has with particular players. Like I said, everyone deals with them differently, but the way that we deal with it is we choose to deal with it, you move on, and certainly this week and yesterday and on, we’re just focused on the Miami Dolphins and how we can go out there and put together the best plan to go out there and kick some butt on Sunday.”
More from Brady:
On newly acquired tight end Tim Wright picking up the game plan quickly: “It’s been a short period of time. I haven’t studied what he’s been doing as much as probably the coaches have. I've been focused on getting my prep for Miami done, making sure I’m feeling great heading into the season. Truthfully, I watched him a lot last year because we had a lot of games where we saw Tampa playing, and I said, ‘Who is this young No. 81 that looks like a good player?’ I’m excited to have him on our team. He’s a good player so I know the other night in the game from the sideline he was making a lot of plays out there. Hopefully he can go out there and keep making them. We’re going to need that position to be a big contributor on the team this year.”
On if there’s a change in the tone and pace in practice this week: “Absolutely. These count. This goes in the final standings so this is when you’re expected to be at your very best, and every bit of preparation that we've all done for the last six months since the end of last season comes down to this particular day. Yeah, there’s a lot of urgency to this week. You can’t afford any mistakes. The guys that are out there, those are the guys that have done the best job over the course of the offseason to put themselves in the best position to help our team so I’m excited. I think it’s a different feeling yesterday than all year because we've been off for so long, finally we get an opportunity to go out there and do something that really counts and that’s going to matter in the final standings.”