Tom Brady and Super Bowl Sundays have become mostly synonymous over the past 22 years, but this time it's for a much different reason. The future Hall of Fame quarterback won't be participating in The Big Game this year, having been eliminated by the very same Los Angeles Rams who'll soon play host to the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium, but he's still a major headline -- having decided to retire from the NFL this offseason. Don't go clearing out his Tampa Bay Buccaneers locker just yet, though.
It appears the Buccaneers aren't completely sold on his retirement. They're reportedly leaving the door open for Brady to change his mind, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, something fellow future Hall of Fame talent and best friend Rob Gronkowski believes is a smart move. Brady himself left the door wide open for a change of heart in the future, instantly raising eyebrows around the league.
"You know, I'm just gonna take things as they come," Brady said recently. "I think that's the best way to put it and ... you never say never."
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As it stands, the 44-year-old is still on the Buccaneers books for just over $10 million that would likely be reworked if he chooses to pick his helmet back up for 2022. But the Buccaneers know that while they wait with bated breath to figure out if Brady is truly gone for good, they must also balance that with preparing for the reality that he just might be.
"At the same time, I know that ... I feel very good about my decision," Brady said, while still leaving the window open for a return. "I don't know how I'll feel six months from now ... It most likely won't [change]. But I try to make the best possible decision I can in the moment, which I did this last week.
"And, again, I think it's not looking to reverse course; I'm definitely not looking to do that. But [at] the same time, I think you have to be realistic that you never know what challenges there are gonna be in life. Again, I loved playing.
"I'm looking forward to doing things other than playing."
Decipher that, if you can.
The bottom line is Brady is clearly at odds with being ready to embrace what comes after a 22-year career and his super-competitive nature that craves the weekly grind of trying to be the best player on the field. In a roundabout way, his tightrope puts the Bucs in a similar position as the Green Bay Packers, who are desperately trying to do all they can to keep their own future Hall of Fame quarterback from walking away -- .
It's safe to assume Tampa Bay wouldn't shy away from doing the same for Brady, especially considering what they'd have to do to replace him and still be a viable Super Bowl contender next season. That might involve an attempt at a blockbuster trade for someone like Deshaun Watson, or even peeking toward Aaron Rodgers but, again, the Packers locked and loaded on keeping that from happening.
So, for the Buccaneers, it's Brady or ... well ... they don't know yet.