TAMPA — Now you’ve heard it straight from the GOAT’s mouth: Tom Brady still is undecided about whether to continue playing football.
Appearing on his weekly Let’s Go! podcast with Jim Gray, Brady didn’t confirm or deny reports that he planned to retire from the NFL and said he had no timetable for an announcement about his future.
“It was a good week and I’m just going through the process I said I was going through,” Brady said Monday night. “Sometimes it takes some time to really evaluate how you feel, what you want to do, and I think when the time is right I’ll be ready to make a decision one way or the other, just like I said last week.
“I’ll know when the time is right. I’m very blessed to have played as long as I have. ... I know there’s a lot of interest in when I’m going to stop playing and I understand that. It’s not that I don’t recognize that. It’s just I know when I’ll know, and when I don’t know, I don’t know. I’m not going to race to some conclusion on that.”
Brady’s comments only will extend speculation, which began Friday with a report by CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora that his retirement was “imminent.”
On Saturday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington jointly reported that Brady had decided to walk away from the NFL after 22 seasons. Multiple networks played Brady’s greatest highlights and interviewed former teammates, and social media buzzed with congratulatory messages from the sports world.
Brady’s agent, Donald Yee, released a statement that only Brady could speak about his future. Coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht believed that Brady remained undecided.
Brady said he was disappointed that news about his future would interfere in any way with the NFC and AFC championship games and made it clear he’s keenly aware of the NFL calendar. While giving no timetable, it seems increasingly likely that he may not announce a decision about his future until sometime after Super Bowl 56.
“I was trying to enjoy a nice weekend and it didn’t turn out that way because my phone got really busy, but that’s just part of being in the situation I’m in,” Brady said. “... I know we’re in such an era of information and people want to be in front of the news often and I totally understand that. I understand that’s the environment we’re in.”
Brady certainly has nothing to prove. The seven-time Super Bowl champion led the NFL in passing yards (5,316) and touchdowns (43) at age 44 during this regular season. He is 29-10 with the Bucs, winning Super Bowl 55. In his final game of this season, he led the Bucs back from a 27-3 deficit to tie the NFC division playoff game with the Rams with under a minute left. The Bucs lost on Matt Gay’s 30-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Rams to the NFC Championship Game, where they beat the 49ers on Sunday.
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“It was a good weekend of football and for me, again, enjoying the decompressing (from) the football season,” Brady said. “It’s six months straight, so your body is trying to figure out what to do because it’s not getting prepped for a game although I very much wish I was getting prepped for a game, especially when the NFC Championship Game was on in L.A. and the Rams are running out there. I wish we could’ve taken care of business. But that’s sports. You don’t always win.”
The Bucs have said they want Brady to take as much time as he needs. He’s under contract for 2023 but they could wait until the start of free agency in March before needing to know his plans.
Brady’s vacation was interrupted over the weekend by phone calls as networks continued his career eulogy. Gray asked Brady if the latest news cycle would motivate him to return for a 23rd NFL season.
“I think my motivation for playing football is to win and be successful and maybe there’s little parts of motivation that comes from different places or what people may say or think, but I’m mostly motivated from inside and wanting to be the best for my teammates and my coaches and my organizations,” Brady said.
“I understand my decision affects a lot of people’s lives,” he added, “so when that decision comes, it will come.”