TAMPA — Tom Brady is back.
Those four words were the cause of celebration or consternation depending on which NFL team you root for.
The seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback ended his retirement on March 13, about six weeks after it began.
When he quit, Brady called football “an ‘all-in,’ proposition. If 100% competitive commitment isn’t there, you won’t succeed, and success is what I love so much about our game. There is a physical, mental and emotional challenge EVERY single day that has allowed me to maximize my highest potential.”
During the season, Brady only thinks about football three times a day: morning, noon and night. He knows how to prepare after 22 seasons, but he didn’t spend every day this offseason doing it.
His off-the-field commitments mushroomed. He launched a clothing line: BRADY; completed filming of two movies; watched Cristiano Ronaldo play in London; signed a $375 million post-playing deal with Fox; agreed to star in and produce a Netflix series; and played in “The Match,” TNT’s made-for-TV golf event from Las Vegas. That doesn’t include reported flirtations with the Dolphins or the wild speculation that he ordered the Code Red that led to Bruce Arians’ retirement from coaching.
Starting with Tuesday’s mandatory minicamp, Brady commitment ramps up when he actually plays quarterback for the Bucs. Considering the crazy, whirlwind offseason, it will probably be a welcome break for him.
Friday, Jan. 28
A report by CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora cites “numerous sources close to Brady remain convinced that the all-time great is preparing to retire from the game.” The story gets little national attention despite accurately predicting an announcement was imminent.
Nearly 20 hours after the CBS Sports report, more definitive reports from Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington of ESPN rock the NFL.
For the next 48 hours, networks run what amounts to a funeral for Brady’s career, with reaction from players and others around the league.
Monday, Jan. 31
Appearing on his weekly Let’s Go! podcast with Jim Gray, Brady won’t confirm or deny reports that he plans to retire from the NFL and says he has 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. “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.”
Tuesday, Feb. 1
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Before 10 a.m., Brady officially announces his retirement on his social media accounts. Clearly, it isn’t something he threw together in a couple of hours.
“This is difficult for me to write, but here it goes. I am not going to make that competitive commitment anymore,” Brady wrote. “I have loved my NFL career and now it is time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention.”
The Bucs contemplate life with Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask at quarterback. A day later, Brady tells Gray, “You never say never.”
Wednesday, Feb. 23
Brady prepares to play quarterback for the Patriots again, if only in a football-themed movie entitled 80 for Brady.
He will produce and appear as himself in the film with a star-studded cast that includes Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Sally Field, who play four friends/Patriots fans who take a life-changing trip to Super Bowl 51 to see their favorite quarterback. Brady will produce the film via his 199 Productions. He agrees to work 9 to 5.
Saturday, March 12
Brady shares a video on Instagram of him talking to Cristiano Ronaldo following a Manchester United game in England. Ronaldo asks Brady, “You’re finished, right?” Brady winces and seems to reply, “That’s what I don’t know.’’
Speculation runs rampant that Brady is there to meet with members of the Glazer family, which owns Manchester United and the Bucs, about returning to the NFL. By the next day, Brady rocks the league again.
Sunday, March 13
Saying he has “unfinished business,” Brady ends his retirement and announces that he will return to quarterback the Bucs in 2022.
“These past two months, I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” Brady said. “That time will come. But it’s not now.”
The timing is not coincidental. It’s the eve of the league’s free-agent negotiating period. If Brady is going to play, he needs the team to reach deals with players such as Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette, Ryan Jensen, Carlton Davis, William Gholston, Giovani Bernard and Blaine Gabbert.
The Bucs sign the bulk of their own free agents while adding Russell Gage, Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan.
Wednesday, March 30
The craziest offseason continues as Arians steps down as the Bucs’ head coach to take a front-office role. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is named head coach. Speculation soars that Brady may have preferred the move, but Arians insists his motives are altruistic toward helping a long-time assistant get the head-coaching job.
Friday, April 22
The final episode of “Man in the Arena” is preparing to air, and a preview of the docuseries shows how Brady is “tormented” by his love of football even at the expense of not living up to the example set by his role model — his dad, Tom Sr.
“It’s like the hamster wheel doesn’t stop, and if you stop the hamster wheel, maybe there’s a fear you will never be able to get back on,” Brady said. “What’s going to bring me the joy as I move forward?”
Tuesday, May 10
Brady agrees to a record deal with Fox to be a color analyst for NFL games whenever his career ends. The pact is 10 years, $375 million. So much for weekends with the kids.
Who knows when this job will begin? “Excited but a lot of unfinished business on the @Buccaneers,” Brady tweets.
Tuesday, May 17
Brady will serve as executive producer of “Greatest Roasts of All Time,” a Netflix series that will air in 2023. Brady will be among the first to be roasted. Thank goodness. A whole week went by before Brady landed another TV gig.
Wednesday, June 1
Brady has lost only three NFL games in a row once in his career. He was 0-2 in “The Match” before being paired with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in last week’s 12-hole, made-for-TV event vs. QBs Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. The old guys prevailed when Rodgers sunk a birdie putt on the final hole.
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