NFL

ESPN’s Adam Schefter says Tom Brady facing first ‘real decision’ about retirement

"Of course he's thought about it. He just doesn't want to talk about it right now."

Tom Brady
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady leaves the field after losing to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL Divisional Round. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
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After rumblings that Tom Brady might call it a career after the 2022 NFL playoffs, the weight of that possibility hit suddenly this weekend following Brady and the Buccaneers’ loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC’s Divisional Round.

Brady nearly pulled off the impossible once more in Tampa Bay, willing the Bucs back from a 27-3 deficit just as he did as a member of the Patriots in the 2016 Super Bowl against Atlanta. But fate wasn’t as kind this time as the Rams drove the ball down the field with less than a minute to play and won the game on a walk-off field goal.

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After the game, the all-time great quarterback claimed he hadn’t “put a lot of thought” into whether he would retire or return for a 23rd NFL season. But ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter said Monday morning during an interview with WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” that Brady likely knows more about his intentions than he’s letting on.

“Tom Brady’s a smart guy. When he says, ‘I haven’t thought about it. There’ll be time to think about it,’ of course he’s thought about it,” he explained. “He just doesn’t want to talk about it right now, and that’s fair. He deserves that right.

“The way it’s been explained to me is that is he’s going to take weeks after this season that ended yesterday, step back, talk with his family, think about what he wants to do, assess the situation and then decide whether he does or doesn’t want to play.”

Schefter said Brady won’t be the only one evaluating his NFL future after this weekend’s heart-pounding slate of games, noting many executives and players question whether or not they want to stay in the “mentally exhausting, physically draining” grind of the sport.

As far as Brady goes, though?

“I think it’s the first time it’s even really a real decision about whether he might not play again,” said Schefter.

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On one hand, Brady has previously said he would like to play in the NFL until age 45, and his 2022 performance suggests he could absolutely accomplish that while still being one of the five best quarterbacks in football.

The 44-year-old unbelievably (or perhaps not) led the league in passing yards (5,316) and touchdowns (43) while leading the Bucs to the NFC’s second-best record. Though Aaron Rodgers has long been the odds-on favorite to win the MVP award for the second consecutive season, Brady is typically right behind him on the leaderboards.

This year, though, was an injury and drama-plagued for the defending champion Bucs, who notably lost Chris Godwin (torn ACL) and Antonio Brown (very public mental breakdown) during the regular season.

Though Schefter notes it’s very possible Brady will come back for that significant age-45 campaign, the insider questioned whether or not the quarterback would feel compelled to put his body on the line once again after the “battle” 2021 was, even if it meant walking away after a loss.

“He has talked about the sacrifice that goes into this, family time, what he gives up,” Schefter said. “He’s got other business interests now. Does he really need to go out and try to win another Super Bowl, put up more passing yards? He’s got all the records. He’s got everything.”

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Brady is technically under contract with the Bucs until the end of the 2022 season, after which the additional two years on his deal void. But if the quarterback were to retire after this season, Tampa Bay would recoup $16 million of his $20 million signing bonus. So the potentiality of his hanging up the cleats has already been thought of financially.

Of course, there’s always that notion Brady would be too competitive to leave the NFL after such a tough loss and would run it back one more time to see if he can accomplish one of the most amazing feats in sports history — winning a title at age 45.

But if Sunday’s thriller was indeed his last game, it was quite a performance to go out on. It’s also an indicator that, no matter how things look, you can never count Tom Brady out.

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