When someone fully and completely embraces a public life, there really are no personal issues. That dynamic is becoming abundantly clear with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady, who has cultivated a platform that has resulted in the aggressive pursuit of multiple business interests, has had his football career plunge into mystery with an unprecedented training-camp hiatus. Brady has been absent for a full week, for personal reasons. There’s apparently no end in sight. Beyond a report from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times that the situation has nothing to do with the health of Brady or his family, there has been no announcement or reporting on why he’s away.
The absence of information invites plenty of speculation. That’s part of the price of not just stumbling into fame but basking in it, profiting from it. When an athlete, performer, or other celebrity demands the public’s attention, it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to look away when something unusual happens.
As to Brady, there’s natural curiosity as to why he’s gone, how long he’ll be gone, and whether he’s ever coming back. The team’s mishandling of the situation hasn’t made it any better. Last week, they insisted the entire thing was planned. Thursday’s comments from coach Todd Bowles, who said there’s no specific date for Brady’s return, undermine the notion that it was carefully orchestrated.
“So, I’ll need some time off during training camp. Starting August 11.”
“When will you be back?”
No, it feels like this wasn’t planned. Also, the absences didn’t begin on August 11. He missed his birthday (August 3) in a supposedly planned day off. He missed Thursday, August 4, and Friday, August 5, for personal reasons. Then he practiced four more times before embarking on his mid-camp break.
Is he having second thoughts about playing in 2022? Has Father Time finally caught up with him?
We know that he tried to retire from the Buccaneers, not from the NFL. We know that he wanted to play for the Dolphins, with Sean Payton serving as the head coach. We know that he unretired when he did because the Bucs were on the brink of losing players like center Ryan Jensen to free agency, and on the verge of making other plans at quarterback. We assumed a coaching change was enough to placate Brady. (Regardless, we know he wasn’t troubled by Bruce Arians walking away 17 days after Brady returned.)
But what if returning to the team he thought he was leaving behind simply isn’t working? What if his heart’s truly not in it? With the ability to make $37.5 million this year from Fox in lieu of making much less to play football, wouldn’t it be tempting to just call it a day as a player and to raise the curtain as an announcer?
Yes, plenty of people are counting on him to choose to keep playing. But if he can’t be fully and completely committed, it helps no one for him to force it.
Then there’s the fact that all of this happened after the league announced on August 2 that the Dolphins had extensively tampered with Brady in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022, in an effort to get him to Miami. While it’s unclear how or why that disclosure could spark a personal issue requiring a three-day break followed several days later by a much longer one, the timeline is undeniable.
Before the Dolphins tampering came to light, Brady’s status wasn’t in question. Since then, he has missed plenty of time.
It’s possible that there’s a perfectly good explanation for it, unrelated to the prospect of Brady deciding to move on. Regardless, the circumstances create a vacuum of information that necessarily must be filled by something. Absent proof, the only other thing becomes speculation. And the situation is simply inviting more, not less, of it as time goes by.