Former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s possible retirement created a frenzy Saturday, when ESPN first reported that the seven-time Super Bowl champion is planning to retire after 22 seasons.
NFL Network confirmed ESPN’s story , and a league source also confirmed the report to the Globe. Around the same time, TB12, Brady’s performance and wellness brand, posted a tweet congratulating him on a storied career.
But by midafternoon, the story took a turn, when Don Yee, Brady’s longtime agent, issued a carefully-worded statement that seemed to cast doubt on the star’s retirement without actually refuting the news.
“I understand the advance speculation about Tom’s future,” Yee said. “Without getting into the accuracy or inaccuracy of what’s being reported, Tom will be the only person to express his plans with complete accuracy. He knows the realities of the football business and planning calendar as well as anybody, so that should be soon.”
According to multiple reports out of Tampa, Brady had not yet informed the Buccaneers of his plans. The Tampa Bay Times reported that coach Bruce Arians was not aware that Brady planned to retire, and that Brady called general manager Jason Licht later Saturday afternoon to tell him he has “not made up his mind.”
Moreover, TB12 Sports subsequently deleted the congratulatory tweet. Then, Brady’s father, Tom Sr., chimed in, telling the Globe the story is “100 percent speculation.”
“Tommy has not made a final decision one way or the other and anybody else that says that he has is absolutely wrong,” Brady Sr. said.
So, is Brady retiring? Is his future actually unknown? Or is his camp attempting to walk things back because he wasn’t able to break the news on his terms?
Amid the flurry of questions, several players congratulated Brady on his unprecedented career.
“Congrats man!” tweeted former Patriots safety Patrick Chung. “You’re the [expletive] greatest! Thank you for everything you’ve done for football and for me personally. Enjoy life my man.”
“Thanks for everything big bro,” tweeted Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans. “It was an honor.”
Some had fun with the uncertainty surrounding the situation.
“Thank you for being you, brotha,” former Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon tweeted, before following up moments later with a second tweet, “[Never mind].”
“22 years and you can’t announce your future plans yourself lol,” tweeted Patriots safety Devin McCourty.
In the days leading up to and after Tampa Bay’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday, Brady had been sending signals about retirement, an event that would mark the end of an era.
After the Patriots drafted him in the sixth round with the 199th overall pick in 2000, Brady went on to become one of the most decorated players of all time: a seven-time Super Bowl champion, three-time MVP, and the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards (84,520) and touchdowns (624).
There is no shortage of fond memories for Brady, who led a record 67 game-winning drives — 14 of which came in the postseason. The most famous certainly was New England’s comeback from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit against Atlanta in Super Bowl LI.
Brady does have one more year remaining on his contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but retirement chatter was already underway as the team entered the postseason. The buzz escalated following the Buccaneers’ loss to the Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs, where Brady nearly pulled off another improbable comeback.
In previous times when asked about retirement, Brady would often say he would play until he could no longer contribute to the team at a high level. That day seemed anything but imminent, as this season, Brady led the league in passing yards (5,316) and touchdowns (43).
Brady seemed more than capable of achieving his goal of playing until he was 45. His trainer and business partner Alex Guerrero said multiple times that Brady had even thought about playing beyond that milestone. In November 2019, Guerrero said Brady told him he could play until 46 or 47.
But Brady has also emphasized that he is not only a football player, but also a husband and a father. Gisele Bündchen, his wife of almost 13 years, has not been shy about her desire to have him retire, at times even enlisting the help of his friends Michael Strahan and Jay Feely.
Earlier in January, when discussing his future on his “Lets Go!” podcast, Brady cited family as a major factor in the decision. His oldest son Jack is 14, while Benjamin is 12 and Vivian is 9.
“The biggest difference now that I’m older is, I have kids now, too,” he said. “I care about them a lot as well. They’ve been my biggest supporters. My wife is my biggest supporter. It pains her to see me get hit out there. And she deserves what she needs from me as a husband and my kids deserve what they need from me as a dad.”
It is unclear when Brady plans to address the conflicting reports. He had previously expressed a lack of interest in a farewell tour, calling it “distracting.”
Brady’s docuseries with ESPN+, “Man in the Arena,” has yet to air its 10th and final episode. Series director Gotham Chopra said it is still in production and will likely be available in the spring.
If Brady does end up calling it a career, former Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman likely captured the sentiment shared by most fans.
“Thanks for the memories, babe,” he wrote.
(Ben Volin of the Globe staff contributed to this report.)