Every year around this time, Tom Brady is asked about his retirement plans. It's to be anticipated, given that he's in his late 40s.
Is there anything different this time?
According to a source close to Brady, public speculation regarding Brady's possible retirement at the age of 44 is at the very least a cause for anxiety and attention. It hasn't been swatted down yet.
Brady's future was thrown into high gear this week when former buddy and teammate Rob Ninkovich said on ESPN's "Get Up" that he wouldn't be surprised if the quarterback retired.
During a one-on-one interview with Brady a week ago, NFL Network's Willie McGinest, a former Patriots teammate, wondered if Brady will have to set a new objective now that he's approaching his goal of playing until he's 45. Brady, who has one year left on his $25.4 million contract, was evasive.
"I felt like then that was a great goal to set and I still have that goal of wanting to get to 45," Brady said. "We'll see how it goes. I think I'm pretty much in [uncharted] territory."
Brady has frequently stated unequivocally that he will return by this stage in the season. That hasn't happened yet. Brady hasn't contemplated his future, according to a source close to him, because he's focused on beating the Rams in the Divisional Round on Sunday.
Brady's mindset, according to a source close to him, is that at the conclusion of the year, he'll put his feelings aside, let them pass, and then decide whether to return. According to the insider, no one can predict what it will be.
It's been brought up with everyone else.
Buccaneers head 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 simply at his weekly news conference, "Tom is playing at a high level. I'll leave it at that."
To be sure, his performance hasn't slowed down. In 2021, Brady set NFL records for touchdown passes (43) and passing yards (5,316). There's no reason to expect a drop-off will happen anytime soon, given his fanatical attitude about his body.
Given his age and position in life, as well as the fact that he has already won a Super Bowl with a team other than the Patriots, he may contemplate retiring.