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Tom Brady hinted at family as a reason why he could retire from football, but an author with strong knowledge of the legendary quarterback says it could be more than that.
Seth Wickersham, an ESPN reporter who has covered the Patriots extensively and who wrote a book on the Patriots dynasty, joined WEEI in Boston to talk about the report from Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington that Brady is indeed planning to retire. The report has been disputed by Brady’s father and by reports that he’s told Bucs brass he hasn’t made a decision, but ESPN has stood behind its reporting.
Wickersham mentioned interests outside football — like the new Brady brand apparel — that are diverting the quarterback’s attention.
“The last two months of the season were just different, and I heard about it,” Wickersham said. “Obviously, Jeff Darlington and Adam Schefter heard about it. It just seemed like that he was more interested in — he started to get more interested — in some of the things that he had started to create this season that really had nothing to do with football, most obviously the Brady Brand. I think when Adam and Jeff had that report, I think a week ago, that he was noncommittal towards returning, I think that was a big tell.
“It had been the feeling of people in the building and certainly people close to Tom that even though he had stated his goal to play to age 45, and even this year started to discuss playing into his 50s, this looked like it could be it. I don’t think the news is particularly surprising, but it had to be frustrating but also not surprising [that the news leaked].”
Wickersham also noted that the difficulty of playing winning football could have been a factor — pointing to how the Buccaneers aren’t as “buttoned up” on details as Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
“Brady has played for so long and at such a high level that it’s easy to forget that playing football is really hard and draining, even for someone as passionate about football as he is,” Wickersham said. “Even for someone who it’s almost essential to his entire identity. His wife as said, ‘As far as I’m concerned, football is his first love.’ That’s not even something he necessarily disagrees with.
“Even given all of that, it is hard. You started to see the Bucs weren’t the same this year. They were obviously a really good team. Injuries took their toll. But, you come from a place like New England, they’re so buttoned-up on everything. The Bucs just aren’t as much. It’s not an indictment on their coaching staff — it’s more of a credit toward Coach Belichick and Tom Brady, but the way they lost that Rams game. Singling up Cooper Kupp with a safety. That’s the type of thing that would never happen in New England, and it’s hard to start over. The Bucs are a roster in transition right now.”
Compound all that, and you can see how Brady came to the decision he has apparently made.
“With all the things going on in Tom’s life, from the Brady brand to being 44 years old to the family issue, just the simple fact that playing football’s also really difficult,” Wickersham said. “I think the idea of coming back to Tampa with a different roster, and having to reinvent yourself again, with most of the world knowing that’s your last year and giving you a farewell tour, that wouldn’t sound that interesting to me.”