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‘My place is still on the field:’ Tom Brady says he’s returning to the NFL

Tom Brady announced Sunday he's returning to the playing field.Matt Patterson/Associated Press

Tom Brady’s retirement sure didn’t last long.

Forty days after he announced his plans to “focus his time and energy on other things,” Brady flipped the script. He’s returning to the NFL for his 23rd season.

“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” Brady wrote on social media. “That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa. Unfinished business. LFG.”

Brady’s retirement was never officially processed on the league’s transaction wire, so a return should be rather seamless. He is still under contract with the Buccaneers for one more year, with a 2022 base salary of $8.925 million and salary cap hit of $20.27 million.


By announcing his plans before the new league year begins on Wednesday, Brady gives the Buccaneers enough notice to adjust their free agency priorities accordingly. Tampa has more than 20 players set to become unrestricted free agents, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, center Ryan Jensen, running back Leonard Fournette, cornerback Carlton Davis, safety Jordan Whitehead, and guard Alex Cappa. The league’s legal tampering period opens at noon Monday.

Both Bucs general manager Jason Licht and coach Bruce Arians expressed their excitement about Brady’s return.

“We are thrilled that Tom has decided to come back this season,” Licht said. “Today’s announcement is something we have been preparing for in recent days. Bruce and I have had plenty of conversations with Tom recently that led us to believe that there was a realistic chance he would want to come back.

“Tom is the greatest quarterback of all time, who is still playing at an elite level. With this decision now made, we will continue to move forward with our offseason plans to reload this roster for another championship run.”


Bruce Arians sounds happy about the idea of having Tom Brady back for another year.Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine last week, Licht and Arians both sounded more than willing to welcome Brady back into the fold.

“We’ll leave the light on,” Licht said. “You always leave the light on for a guy like Tom Brady.”

“Whenever Tom wants to come back, he’s back,” added Arians. “If Tom wants to come back, we’ll have plenty of money for him.”

Arians, however, also indicated he thought that the door was closed on a potential return.

“He slammed it shut when I talked to him,” Arians said.

But Brady is indeed coming back to Tampa, despite announcing on Feb. 1 that he was no longer going to make “that competitive commitment” to football anymore. When explaining his decision at the time, Brady stressed the importance of dedicating more time to family. He has three children: Jack, 14; Benjamin, 12; and Vivian, 9.

“As you get older, you experience things that are outside of the sport that demand the level of attention and energy that football has always gotten,” Brady said on an episode of his podcast that aired Feb. 7. “It’s time for me to commit to those types of things. A lot of things have come up over the years in the last 10 years of my life. As I’ve gotten closer to this decision this last week, it just, in the end, felt like it was just the right time to do it.”


Other than spending time with his wife and kids, Brady didn’t elaborate much on his retirement plans. He has several business ventures, including an apparel line, Brady Brand; a performance and wellness company, TB12 Sports; a SiriusXM podcast, “Let’s Go!”; and a production company, 199 Productions.

“I am really excited for what’s ahead and I don’t know what that means or where it takes me,” Brady said. “But I know that it’ll be fun and exciting and I’m gonna make the most of whatever opportunities present themselves as I go forward.”

Tom Brady will be back on the field this fall.DOUG MILLS/NYT

In late February, news even leaked of his first project: A movie called “80 for Brady.” Brady, who helped develop the idea, was set to appear in and produce the movie, with production scheduled to start this spring.

Even as Brady’s post-football life started to get underway, however, a comeback never seemed out of the question.

Before retiring, Brady had said he planned to walk away once he, in his words, “sucked.” If his numbers last season are any indication, he certainly still can contribute at a high level. Brady led the league in passing yards (5,316) and touchdowns (43).

The seven-time Super Bowl champion also has long said he wanted to play until he is 45 years old, or perhaps beyond.

Brady, who will turn 45 in August, can now achieve that goal while setting yet another record. If he starts in Week 1, he’ll become the oldest quarterback to start a game in NFL history.


Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.Follow her @nicolecyang.