“I don’t think there was a final, final decision until it happened,” Tom Brady, 42, told Howard Stern during the Apr. 8 episode of The Howard Stern Show on SiriusXM Radio, per NESN. After 20 seasons and six Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots, Tom announced in March that he was leaving the Pats for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It turns out, Tom knew he was shipping out of Boston long before he signed on the dotted line with the Bucs. “I would say I probably knew before the start of last season that it was my last year [with the Patriots.] I knew that it was just, our time, you know — our time was coming to an end.”
Tom signed a pseudo-contract extension with the Patriots in August 2019, which included voidable years in 2020 and 2021 (and prevented the Pats from placing the franchise or transition tag on him.) He’d become a free agent if they couldn’t work out a deal, but it sounds like Tom already had one foot out the door. “Before last [season], I had a contract that was restructured,” Tom told Howard. “Basically, from my standpoint, I knew that at the end of the year, I was going to become a free agent for the first time in my career. I had spoken with the owner with the team, Mr. [Robert] Kraft; he was good with it. I had spoken about it with Coach [Bill] Belichick; he was good with it. And that’s what we decided to do. Over the course of the season and the offseason, there wasn’t a ton of substantial conversations we had to continue. We had some, and we both thought about it, and then, in the end, it was just a great way to end two decades.”
“We had a great conversation, and I’ve said this before: There’s no bigger fan of the New England Patriots than me. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean that I could continue to play there at the highest level. And I feel like I want to prove to myself that I can still perform at the highest level,” Tom said during his talk with Howard, per NESN’s transcript. The man considered the “Greatest Of All Time” told the “King of All Media” that the night before announcing he was leaving, he called up Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick.
“I just went over, and I said, ‘look, I just want to say how much I love you and appreciate what we’ve done together,’” he said, adding that he cried during this meeting.” ‘I know we’re not going to continue together, but thank you, and thank you for providing what you have for my family and for my career.’ I was able to call Coach Belichick at the same time, and it was great.”
During the talk with Howard, Tom dismissed the talk about how he should focus on his “legacy” and finish his career by playing for only one team. “I would say I never cared about legacy. I could give a sh-t about (that). I never said in high school, ‘Man, I can’t wait for what my football legacy looks like.’ That’s just not me. That’s not my personality. So why would I choose a different place? It’s just time.”
He also admitted to having head injuries (“I’ve definitely had concussions, yeah”) but that he’s not going to slow down as he winds up his remarkable career. “I could sit here and (say) stop playing football so I could worry about what’s going to happen or worry about this or that instead of saying why don’t I live my life the way that I want to and enjoy it? For me, it’s doing what I love to do. You don’t tell a musician to stop singing at age 42. You don’t tell a great painter, stop painting at 42. If you want to stop, stop, go ahead. But for me, because I feel like I can still play doesn’t mean I should just stop playing because that’s what everyone tells me I should do.”