TAMPA, Fla. -- Tom Brady said Sunday night that it was too soon for him to think about his future and that his emotions were still tied to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' heartbreaking, last-second playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams that had occurred just minutes earlier.
"Truthfully guys, I'm thinking about this game," said Brady, who rallied the Bucs from a 27-3 second-half deficit only to watch them fall 30-27. "I'm not thinking about anything past five minutes from now."
Brady's comments came after ESPN reported earlier Sunday that the 44-year-old quarterback is undecided about his future, and that while he could return for another season, it is far from a given. Sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington that Brady plans to take time after the season ends -- a month or longer -- to assess how he feels physically and mentally while also gauging his family's desires.
Brady indicated as much after Sunday's loss.
"I haven't put a lot of thought into it, so you know, we will just take it day by day and kind of see where we are at," said Brady, who has one year left on his contract.
Asked if he thought about Sunday possibly being the final game of his career as he ran out of the south end zone tunnel at Raymond James Stadium, the seven-time Super Bowl winner said no.
"I was thinking about winning," he said. "That's kind of my mentality -- always to go out there and try to win. Give my teammates the best chance to win."
In the end, he ran out of weapons to throw to this season. No Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Breshad Perriman or Cyril Grayson. Tyler Johnson went down with a rib injury and Jaelon Darden suffered a concussion. Tight end Cam Brate was lining up in the slot by game's end Sunday, and at one point, Brady had a backup right guard filling in at right tackle, because his backup right tackle suffered an ankle injury, on top of a quad injury.
"It's the reality of football," said Brady, who lost in the divisional round for just the fourth time in his career. "Every team is really qualified when you get to the final eight, then the final four, then the final two and it doesn't feel good to lose any one of those games, and I have lost each of those stages. So at the end, there is only one team that is going to be happy. It feels good to move on when you move on, and obviously when you don't, whether it was last week or this week or next week, the week after, two weeks after that -- if you are a loser in that game, it all sucks to lose in the end."
Coach Bruce Arians said there's no timetable for when a discussion with Brady about his future will take place.
"That's totally up to Tom," Arians said.
The Bucs don't have a viable successor to Brady on their current roster.
Teammates, many of whom faced questions about Brady's future this past week, acknowledged the reality of the situation.
"I know Tom's a competitor. He always say he's got something to prove, but what more can he do?" inside linebacker Lavonte David said. "He's the GOAT. He's done everything he can. If he comes back, obviously we'll welcome him with open arms. But we'll have to let him decide that for himself."
Wide receiver Mike Evans said he won't make any sort of pitch to Brady.
"I don't have to say nothing to him," Evans said. "He's self-motivated. He knows what he wants. Hopefully we get him back next year. The best player ever, one of the best teammates and one of the best leaders I've ever seen.
"I've said the last two years: I'm super appreciative that he came to Tampa Bay. Nobody had no clue he was even leaving New England. Just very privileged to play with him."
The Bucs have 24 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, including aging veterans who, like Brady, have decisions to make -- outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, running back Leonard Fournette, tight end Rob Gronkowski and Jensen, to name a few.
Re-signing all 22 starters like they did last year might not be possible.
"It's so tough. A lot of these guys are on the last year of their contracts," David said. "I was the last one to walk in [the locker room]. Seeing the look in everybody's eyes, it was like, 'This is a tough one.' You hate to go out in such a manner. At the end of the day, you know the locker room isn't going to be the same next year.
"You build relationships with guys and to see them go out the way we did -- some people are going to have to move on to certain places. It's going to be tough because this is the most tight locker room I have ever been around with the greatest chemistry with guys on and off the field. Great leadership with the young guys and the old guys just jelling together. ... It's like a real family-like atmosphere. Luckily you do build bonds with those guys to wish them well in their future endeavors, but we all know it's gonna be different next year."
Pierre-Paul, who just turned 33, will undergo surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff he has played with all season. Asked if he wants to continue playing, he said, "I don't know. We'll see after my surgery."
Fournette, the fourth overall draft pick in 2017 who found a career resurgence with the Bucs after getting released by the Jacksonville Jaguars before the 2020 season, added: "I'm proud of this group -- I'm proud of these guys and I'm happy to call myself a Buccaneer."
A number of players stayed in the locker room long after Sunday's game was over.
"You have to cherish the relationships that you have with this team," Fournette said. "They don't come around too often like that. One of the best groups of guys and coaching staffs I've been around. We went out, the way we didn't want to go out, but at the end of the day, I'm just blessed to be a part of this organization, to have guys like Tom Brady, Gronk, Mike [Evans], Scotty [Miller], [Ryan] Jensen ... guys like that ... It's hard, it's tough."