TAMPA, Fla. -- One day after becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to start and win a game at the age of 45, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady said he's "feeling more" emotions than he has in the past and he suspects that it's because he's nearing the end of his football career, having already retired this offseason -- albeit briefly -- before returning for a 23rd season.
"I'm feeling more than things in the past for some reason," Brady said on his "Let's Go!" podcast. "You know, I'm just really feeling intensely my emotions. And I feel like I always have that, but I think when you get close to the end -- and I don't know exactly where I'm at with that and there's no decision to be made, it's not like I have 10 years left. I definitely don't have that. So all these, I just am never gonna take for granted, you know?
"... So, yeah, it's a love that Kobe had for basketball, that Michael Jordan had for it, that Tiger Woods had for golf, that so many athletes have for the sport. And the question is how long are you willing to commit with discipline, to doing the right things, to allow those things to take place over a period of time? And that's what guys' careers are judged on."
What has separated Brady from other all-time greats in their respective sports is that neither declining play nor injuries have pushed him out. He put together one of his best statistical seasons ever at 44 last year, leading the NFL in completions, passing yards and touchdowns. His 5,316 passing yards and 485 completions last season were a career high, although 2021 was the NFL's first 17-game season. His 43 touchdowns were second only to the 50 he threw in 2007 at age 30.
Instead, what will likely lead Brady to ultimately call it a career is the need to spend more time with family and the desire to experience certain aspects of life that a constant devotion to football won't allow.
"I haven't had a Christmas in 23 years and I haven't had a Thanksgiving in 23 years," Brady said. "I haven't celebrated birthdays with people that I care about that are, you know, born from August to late January. And you know, I'm not able to be at funerals and I'm not able to be at weddings. And I think there comes a point in your life where you say, you know what? I had my fill and it's enough and time to go on, to move into other parts of life, which, you know, I push myself to the max and I, I got everything I could outta my ability and I hope that everybody gets everything they can out of their doing."
He also spoke of how much more challenging it is to prepare and recover for games than it was for him 20 years ago.
"So what am I dealing with now? I woke up today going, 'Holy s---!'" Brady said. "There was a few hits and you look at your arm and you got bruises, you got cuts and you got, the way it is and you're like, 'How much longer do I wanna make this commitment?' And I honestly made the commitment for this year and everything's gonna be, you know, like always -- continue to evaluate all these different aspects of play."
As for when that time will come, he's not sure, but he'll continue to take it day by day.
"I think, for me, the ability to play and love what I'm doing in year 23 with a new group of teammates and a really committed team -- it's really fun for me," Brady said. "And I still enjoy [it], I feel it out there, I feel the joy, I feel the happiness, I feel the camaraderie."