Tom Brady essentially made two life changing decisions over the course of six weeks in January, February and March. First, he decided to step away from the game of football after 22 seasons and an NFL-record seven Super Bowl championships. Over the course of the next 40 days, he realized his football journey wasn't over yet and he opted to return for the 2022 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He essentially ended up back where he had begun the offseason, but the process of getting there wasn't a simple one.
"It's very easy when you're 25 to know what you want to do the next year," Brady said on Thursday after the completion of the Buccaneers' minicamp. "It's very challenging when you're 43 or 44 because there is a lot of other things that are pressing and a lot of other things that are really important in your life, like your kids and your wife and different relationships. Things have always taken a back seat to football – that's just how it has gone for me. It's challenging and I've just got to work at those things. It is part of what is challenging about things that happen in my life – just different decisions are made. I have a great life and I have zero complaints about it. I just try to do the best I can do."
Brady has had a love affair with the sport since his youth, and he proved last season, at the age of 44, that he was still at the top of his game by leading the NFL in passing yards and touchdown passes. So he still wants to play football and he still can play football, but what made the decision difficult was the knowledge that doing so would take a full-blown commitment, especially once training camp begins in late July. Brady only knows one way to approach the game…and he knows that it works.
"There are other significant, very important things that happen [in life], and I think when the football season starts, everybody knows that it is 100 percent football," he said. "It's just the way you have to be and it's a big commitment to make. Then in order to play every game, you have to train really hard, so I've got to train really hard at 44 years old, which is a big commitment. To try to make those decisions has its challenges. It's not like it was when I was 25. I don't think any of us feel like we did when we were 25, but thankfully for good reasons there are parts where I am happy I'm not 25. Then there are other parts where I wish I felt like I was a little more like 25. I have a very complex, tricky life in different aspects and I'm just trying to navigate it the best way I can."
Obviously, the Buccaneers are thrilled that Brady chose to play in 2022 and chase another championship to pair with their one from the 2020 season. Even with a roster loaded with talent overall, Tampa Bay is clearly a more serious Super Bowl contender with Brady at the helm of its offense. And it goes beyond the 43 touchdowns and 5,000 yards; Brady's unwaveringly fanatical approach to preparation and health inspires the same sort of commitment from his teammates. The veteran quarterback didn't join the Bucs for voluntary OTAs in May but he quickly made his presence felt in practice this week, often urging his teammates to pick up the pace. He has joined Head Coach Todd Bowles in urging Buccaneer players to use the time between offseason workouts and the start of training camp wisely so they will be ready to go full-speed in late July.
"We know we've got six weeks of training camp, but I feel like it starts [now]," Brady said. "Obviously, the season has already started – you are competing every day out there. You're either getting better or you're getting worse. You're not going out there just to break a sweat, you are going out there to get things done. I think this should be, in my opinion, our best opportunity to play our best football because we've been together the longest. Why shouldn't it be? We know each other, we know the scheme, we've been through a lot of challenging circumstances in games and now we've got to go out there and execute it as well as we possibly can."
Unsurprisingly, Brady impressed the coaches and teammates with his work on the practice field despite not being present at the previous OTA workouts.
"He picked up where he left off at," said Bowles. "He got to see things on the first day, the second day he was sharp as a tack, and today he was sharp. So you can't say enough good things about him – his work ethic and what he brings to the team."
At some point, Brady will take that same work ethic into a new career, though he'll remain involved in the game he loves by stepping directly into the broadcast booth when he's done playing. Frankly, he could be preparing for that job right now if he hadn't changed his mind after 40 days of reflection. But now that that decision is made, it's all football.
"I kind of made a decision of what I'd like to do," he said of his post-playing days. "I'll get to be in the game of football. I think the most important thing is where I'm at now and what I hope to do for this team. That has been my commitment to this team and organization. It's been so much fun [since] I came here two years ago. It's been almost two and a half years now, and it's been an incredible part of my football journey. It's not over – we've still got a lot to accomplish. I've got a long life ahead and there are a lot of fun things to do ahead. I'm looking forward to what's ahead in football. But at the same time, none of us are promised much beyond what we have now, and this is the current moment. I'm really excited about going out there and trying to compete and win a championship."