“I always said my mid-40s, and naturally that means around 45,” Brady told Ian O’Connor of ESPN.com.
There’s one caveat that first emerged after Super Bowl LI, when Brady revealed, apparently jokingly, that his wife was pressuring him to walk away while on top.
“She makes decisions for our family that I’ve got to deal with,” Brady said. “Hopefully she never says, ‘Look, this has to be it.’ . . . My wife and my kids, it’s a big investment of their time and energy, too.”
Brady added that Ms. Brady has signed off on his target of 45, again with a caveat: “She also wants me to take good care of myself and still have my energy. My kids have grown up faster than I thought.”
This doesn’t mean 45 is the definite ending point. Brady seems to be willing to reassess once he gets there, before deciding whether to keep going.
“”If I get there and I still feel like I do today, I don’t see why I wouldn’t want to continue,” Brady said. “If you said 50, then you can say 60, too, then 70. I think 45 is a pretty good number for right now. I know the effort it takes to be 40. . . . My love for the sport will never go away. I don’t think at 45 it will go away. At some point, everybody moves on. Some people don’t do it on their terms. I feel I want it to be on my terms. I’ve got to make appropriate choices on how to do that, how to put myself in the best position to reach my long-term goals.”
That’s the key takeaway — he wants to walk away on his own terms and not based on what anyone else decides. But, again, there’s another caveat. He sounds as if could be willing to stay with the Patriots as the backup to the next starter.
“When you’re a member of a team sport, the best guy plays,” Brady said. “So I always want to make sure I’m the best guy, and I give our team a great chance to win. But if you’re ever not [the best guy], part of being a great teammate is letting the other guy do that, as well. Competition is what has always driven me. I’ve never been one that was hand selected, to be this particular player. . . . In high school, college, professionally, I think the greater the competition, the more that it really allows me to dig deep and bring the best out of me.”
The problem for Brady arises when the very best he can bring is no longer better than someone else’s. Would he try to start for another team? Would he eventually hold a clipboard?
For now, no one knows, including Brady. The one thing that we do know is that Father Time eventually will remain unbeaten.