Although Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has previously talked about playing until he was 45, Tampa Bay's quarterback remains noncommittal about playing next season, according to ESPN's Jeff Darlington and Adam Schefter.
Per ESPN, ahead of Tampa Bay's divisional round game vs. the Rams, Brady returning is far from a given.
The 44-year-old quarterback reportedly plans on taking time after the season ends to assess how he feels physically and mentally as well as consult with his family before making a final decision.
Last March, Brady and the team agreed to a one-year extension, locking him in through the 2022–23 season. After signing a two-year, $50 million deal during the spring of 2020, Brady had one year left on his original deal prior to the extension.
In the lead-up to what eventually became Brady's seventh Super Bowl win, the Buccaneers quarterback told reporters he would consider playing past 45 years old if he remained able to compete at a high level.
"Yeah, definitely. I would definitely consider that," Brady said at the time. "It's a physical sport and you never know when that moment is. Just because it's a contact sport and there's a lot of training that goes into it. And again there has to be 100% commitment from myself to keep doing it."
In 2017, Brady told Sports Illustrated's Greg Bishop that he planned on playing until 45. Bishop noted Brady wasn't ruling out playing at 50. Brady has since reiterated his desire to play until at least 45.
“It’s just evolution,” Brady told Sports Illustrated in 2017. “To evolve, to do things better, that’s in our DNA. Think about the sneakers a guy like Bill Russell played in. Imagine the floors.”
Brady was yet again among the NFL's best players this season, leading the leads in yards (5,316), passing touchdowns (43) and yards per game (312.7).
However, per ESPN, at times throughout the season Brady has felt committed to returning next year because he feels like he owes it to an organization that doesn't have a clear quarterback succession plan. The Buccaneers' current backup quarterbacks are NFL journeyman Blaine Gabbert and 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask.
Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians told the Tampa Bay Times that he would be "shocked" if Brady didn't play next season based on his enthusiasm during practice. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said a recent weekly news conference, "Tom is playing at a high level. I'll leave it at that," per NFL Network.
Tampa Bay (13–4) is set to face the Rams on Sunday, with the winner slated to host the NFC Championship next week.
Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. ET.
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