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Brady retired on Feb. 1, only weeks after a 30-27 NFC Divisional Round loss to the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 23. He never closed the door completely on coming back amid his retirement announcement and subsequent interviews. Brady connected with Christensen shortly after the comeback announcement on Sunday, March 13, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
“The first thing he said was he didn’t want to go out that way. He wanted to make sure we do everything to win it all next year,” Christensen told Stroud.
It fits Brady’s comments before the loss to the Rams where he shared his dream finish with the NBC Sports broadcast team. Brady told them it’s “winning the Super Bowl” but acknowledged that the 2021 season might not end that way. Now, Brady is focused on a better ending for 2022.
“It felt like the morning after we had just lost to the Rams,” Christensen told Stroud about the call from Brady . “He had a list. He said, ‘Here’s how we can be better.’ I think he had been out of retirement 12 hours or so by then.”
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Big Risk for Brady?
The Bucs’ strong start to free agency doesn’t guarantee a fully-reloaded, Super Bowl-ready roster for Brady to work with. As Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano put it, Brady “is taking a huge risk” this year.
Tampa Bay re-signed center Ryan Jensen and guard Aaron Stinnie, but the Bucs also lost guard Alex Cappa to the Cincinnati Bengals and guard Ali Marpet to retirement. The Bucs traded for New England Patriots guard Shaq Mason to fill one starting guard spot.
Change faces the Bucs secondary with cornerback Carlton Davis III re-signing but safety Jordan Whitehead going to the New York Jets. The Bucs have three more defensive starters up for free agency as of Wednesday, March 16, according to Spot Trac. That’s just three of 22 Bucs players overall.
“There’s still a lot of holes,” Christensen told Stroud. “You’ve got to fill those darn holes. We’ve got to find a receiver or two. We weren’t the same when [Chris Godwin] and [Antonio Brown] went down [with injuries]. I think a lot will depend on who is the surrounding cast and what changes are made. Everyone knows we’ve got to run the ball better.”
The Bucs addressed the receiver room recently with the signing of Russell Gage from the Atlanta Falcons. Breshad Perriman also re-signed with the Bucs. Last week, the Bucs franchise-tagged Godwin, but it’s eating up salary cap space until the two reach a long-term deal.
Amid the change, Christensen anticipates another strong season by Brady, who threw for 5,316 yards and 43 touchdowns in 2021. How far Brady can carry the rest remains unknown as the team will look different from 2020 and 2021.
“I think he will play really, really well again, and a lot of it will depend on who is in the surrounding cast,” Christensen told Stroud.
Doubtful Retirement, Intentional Return
Brady’s uncertainty on how and when he retired surprised Christensen.
“That’s what’s so surprising about him, that it happened so quickly,” Christensen told Stroud. “That’s not what they usually do. They know they’re tired, they’re physically beat up. They usually get away and wait for a month or two and then decide. It was a little bit out of character for him.”
The seven-time Super Bowl champion’s comeback didn’t look that way. He announced it right before NFL free agency and the Bucs’ chance to pull a trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“I do think probably with coming back so quick was him trying to beat free agency so you can assemble a team around him,” Christensen told Stroud. “So you had a chance.”
“He has a great vision of where he sees this thing going,” Christensen added.
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