Sports

Rob Ninkovich weighed in on former teammate Tom Brady’s retirement decision

The former Patriots linebacker says the physical grind of the NFL, including a hard-fought loss last Sunday, has taken mental and phsyical tolls on Brady.

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Tom Brady reacts after being defeated by the Los Angeles Rams 30-27 in the NFC Divisional Round. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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The Tom Brady Retirement Watch is heating up after the Buccaneers’ loss in the NFC Divisional Round, and Brady himself flung fuel on the fire with his latest comments as he considers his next move.

While addressing his most recent defeat and what lies ahead on the “Let’s Go!” podcast Monday, Brady repeatedly spoke about how his family — his wife, Gisele Bündchen, and his three children — will affect his future in football.

“It pains [Gisele] to see me get hit out there,” Brady said on the show. “And she deserves what she needs from me as a husband and my kids deserve what they need from me as a dad…It’s not always what I want.  It’s what we want as a family.  And I’m gonna spend a lot of time with them and figure out in the future what’s next.”

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Though this might not be the first time the 44-year-old Brady has mentioned needing time to think things over, it seems to carry more weight as the quarterback ages.

Former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who has been on the other side of retirement since 2017, talked on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” Tuesday morning about the toll Brady’s pursuit of greatness has taken.

“You have to understand, as a quarterback, he’s not leaving the building at 3 or 4 or 5. He’s the last one to leave. He’s the first one to get there, especially when you have to prepare every single week, week in and week out,” Ninkovich explained. “Year in and year out…you have to do all the stuff to keep your body at a high level, then you have to prepare on top of that, then you have to practice.

“Tom is 44 years old. He has never, ever, as an adult, enjoyed a weekend in September, October, November, December. He’s on the road on Christmas sometimes, Thanksgiving, Halloween…so I understand.”

That reality might be why Brady said there’s “a lot of joy” in being away from football and spending time with his children even though he still loves the sport. He also happens to still be very good at it.

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Though he’s not favored to win the MVP award this season, the longtime Patriots signal-caller led the league in passing yards and touchdowns at age 44 –an unheard-of achievement. Brady also proved he still has pure magic when needed, willing the Bucs back from a 24-point deficit last Sunday.

When asked about Brady being unwilling to retire while he can still compete at a high level, Ninkovich drew on his own experience of walking away from the game.

“I figured, ‘I’m 32 years old. I’ve made good money. I’ve set my family. I’ve set my family up the proper way that I should’ve.’ … My mom asked me, ‘What else do you have to prove to anybody? What else do you have to do in the NFL?’ And I was sitting there like, yeah I don’t really have to do [anything].”

As for whether he thinks Brady is done, Ninkovich wasn’t ready to hazard a guess, saying he wouldn’t be surprised to see the quarterback play “for five more years” or retire this season.

But the ex-linebacker said it’s not shocking Brady would take time to assess whether or not he’d want to continue playing after the punishment he took against the Rams, comparing it to what he endured in the Patriots’ 2015 AFC Championship loss to the Broncos.

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“After games like that, you’re like, man, I just need to relax. I need to get away. I need to think about other stuff. I’m sore. I can’t walk. I’m hurting right now…he’s in uncharted territory. Literally, he’s taking it year by year.”

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