Tom Brady Acknowledges Family Influenced Free-Agency Decision

Jason B. Hirschhorn

When the new league year began last month, all eyes in the NFL focused on quarterback Tom Brady. Brady became an unrestricted free agent for the first time since joining the New England Patriots in 2000 and fielded offers from several teams, the Los Angeles Chargers among them. For a moment, it appeared that the six-time Super Bowl champion might take his talents west for the next chapter in his illustrious career.

Instead, Brady chose to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a decision few anticipated even a few days earlier. The move directly affected the fortunes of several franchises and created a ripple effect that continues nearly a month later.

With the dust finally settled on Brady's departure from his longtime home, he finally took the opportunity to discuss his thought process during an interview with Howard Stern's SiriusXM program. In the interview, Brady discusses his relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick, how he approached free agency, and what factors played a role in his decision.

"I heard from a lot of [teams]," Brady said. "There was a time before last offseason, I had a contract that got restructured, and basically, from my standpoint, I knew that at the end of the year I was going to become a free agent for the first time in my career. And I had spoken about it with the ownership of the team, Mr. Kraft, and he was good with it. I had spoken about it with coach Belichick, he was good with it. That's what we decided to do. And if we, over the course of the season, and the offseason, there wasn't a ton of substantial conversations for us to continue. We had some. And we both thought about it, and in the end, it was just a great way to end two decades. We had a great conversation … I said this before, there is no bigger fan of the New England Patriots organization than me. But at the same time, that doesn't mean that I could continue to play there at the highest level. I feel like I want to prove to myself that I can still perform at the highest level."

Some have floated the idea of "Brady versus Belichick" animosity leaving the quarterback feeling unwanted. For his part, Brady shot down the argument.

"It's a pretty s----- argument that people would say that," Brady said. "I can't do his job and he can't do mine. So, the fact that you can say, 'Would I be successful without him?' The same level off success, I don't believe I would have been. But I feel the same vice versa as well. To have him allow me to be the best I could be. So, I'm grateful for that. And I very much believe he feels the same way about me because we've expressed that to each other.

"I think he has a lot of loyalty. He and I have had a lot of conversations that nobody's ever been privy to, nor should they be. So many wrong assumptions were made about our relationship or about how he felt about me. I know genuinely how he feels about me."

While leaving New England presented challenges for Brady, he also had to figure out where to go next. In the end, he pointed to wife, Gisele Bündchen, and their family as the catalysts behind his choices.

"A couple years ago we had, she didn't feel like I was doing my part for the family," Brady said. "And she felt like I would play football all season and she would take care of the house and all of a sudden when the season would end, I'd be like, 'Great, let me get into all my other business activities. Let me get into my football training.' And she's sitting there going, 'Well, when are you going to do things for the house? When are you going to take the kids to school and do that?'"

Brady acknowledged that he had to "check" himself and reprioritize his life in order to right the familial ship.

"I had to make a big transition in my life and say I can't do all the things that I wanted to do for football like I used to," Brady said. "I got to take care of things in my family because my family situation wasn't great. She wasn't satisfied with our marriage so I had to make a change in that."

Brady now has four children, three with Bündchen and another from a previous relationship. All now live on different parts of the East Coast, a fact that undoubtedly pushed Brady to sign with the Buccaneers over a team like the Chargers headquartered three time zones away. After explaining how he didn't plan to start a family until after his football career, Brady expressed his appreciation for how his life unfolded instead.

"My oldest son, he was [born] in 2007 and then I fell in love with my wife," Brady said. "Things change and then they change way for the better because I found a wife and a woman that I saw myself with for the rest of my life. She's been an amazing supporter in everything I've done. She's a loving wife that tries to nurture the kids and the family and me and she wants to take good care of me but she also is hardworking. She wants to save everybody. She wants to be a great influence on the world."

-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH