Tom Brady rocked the NFL when he announced his retirement on Feb. 1 following the end of a disappointing Buccaneers season by his standards. However, he reversed course just over a month later, announcing on social media that he would be coming back for his 23rd NFL season.
On Monday, Brady revealed to ESPN that he started to think about a return even earlier in March, when Tampa Bay began free agency. He realized that he could still compete from a physical standpoint and that there was “still a place” for him in the NFL.
“I knew my body, physically, could still do what it could do and obviously I have a love for the game, I think I’ll always have a love for the game,” Brady told ESPN. “I think physically I’ll be able to do it. I just felt like there was still a place for me in the field. ”
In addition to the physical aspect, Brady maintained that his internal fire to win and be successful is as strong as ever. After the Buccaneers were bounced in the NFC Divisional playoff game against the Rams, the seven-time Super Bowl champion was left with a bitter taste in his mouth and something he wanted to improve upon.
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“At the end of the day, I just love the competition on the field,” Brady said. “And last year was a very bitter ending to a season and we’ve got to make a lot of corrections to try to improve and put ourselves in a better position to succeed moving forward.”
Brady, 44, was magnificent in his third season in Tampa, throwing for a career-high 5,316 yards along with 43 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He finished as the runner-up to Aaron Rodgers for the league MVP award, which he has won three times, last in 2017.
Despite that performance, even Brady has been willing to recognize his own football mortality. He once again cited his family as a reason to hang up his cleats in the future, alluding that his NFL career will soon be coming to an end, just not this year.
“I know I don’t have a lot left, I really do. I know I’m at the end of my career,” Brady said. “I wish you could go forever, but it’s just not and football comes at too high of a cost now. My kids are getting older and it’s just getting harder and harder to miss these things.
“But, I wanted to give myself and my teammates and our organization another incredible opportunity to accomplish something that we’d all be very proud of.”