FOXBOROUGH — The problem with growing old is it becomes harder to put your own priorities first.
We have more responsibilities put on our plate. More people count on us. I’d love to play golf every weekend and take trips to Vegas, but my wife kind of needs me to help raise our two children.
That’s where Tom Brady appears to be right now with his football career — stuck between “me” and “we.”
Speaking for nearly 30 minutes on WEEI’s “Greg Hill Show” Monday morning, Brady reiterated once again his desire to play football until he’s 45 years old. He just turned 42 last week, so that would mean three, or even four, more seasons.
“I’ve said 45 for a long time, and I hope I can make it there,” Brady said. “I’m close, and I’m going to reevaluate after the year and see how I feel. And hopefully I can just keep doing it.”
Brady is in his 20th year with the Patriots, and 29th playing organized football. He is a modern-day Peter Pan; if he had his way, he would play forever. Brady doesn’t really know what he would do with himself without football. He doesn’t want to grow up.
“I’ve never been forced to make that decision,” he said. “I haven’t really had to focus the time and energy on that. It’s mostly been hobbies. Certainly off the field I have some business interests, but nothing really kind of feels the way football does. I love being out there playing, and I love being out there with the guys.”
But Brady’s decision to play beyond 2019 isn’t totally up to him. There are a lot of outside forces pulling at him.
His family is a big one. It has been no secret the last few years that Gisele wants her husband to retire. She’s worried about concussions and his health. She wants to travel with the family. She has to put some business opportunities off to the side during the football season, when Brady is unavailable.
Already, Brady has had to give up spring football. But getting ready for the fall still takes up a lot of his time.
“It’s a big commitment, and it’s a lot of time and energy I put into getting ready for practice,” he said. “The mental part of the game is not the challenge. It’s just really working hard to keep my body in physical preparation, physical shape.
“That’s a big challenge. I’m certainly not a robot. It’s just a lot of time and energy to prepare my body to play.”
Not only does it prevent Gisele from doing everything she wants to do, but Brady also misses out on important time with his children during football season. It’s time you don’t get to make up.
“I get to go off to work every morning, and she gets to take care of our beautiful kids,” Brady said. “I’m at a point in my life where there’s a lot of considerations that go into playing. I have a very busy professional life, I have a very busy personal life. Any decision that’s made, you know, has to consider everything.”
“Everything” includes Brady’s employer. If you didn’t notice, the contract Brady signed last week wasn’t a contract extension at all. It automatically voids next March 17, meaning Brady is still in the final year of his contract.
For Brady to play until he’s 45, the Patriots have to want him first. The Patriots could easily have given him an actual two-year extension instead of a fake one, but they want to see how he plays at 42 before committing to anything in the future. And they want to see if the family strings finally tug Brady away for good.
Brady tried to put a good face on it Monday. He said he doesn’t need any contract clarity beyond this year, and that being in the last year of his deal will help him focus on this season.
“I look at the glass is half-full basically every day; I’m in a good place,” he said. “There’s just too much work to be done between now and next season, so there’s no point really worrying about it. Because there’s so many what-ifs and hypotheticals.
“And if you spend all your time and energy on those things, you miss track of what’s really most important, which is what’s happening right now.”
“It takes a lot to get from now to March, and I don’t want to overlook the big challenge we’re facing. I don’t want my mind convoluted with thoughts that are premature, or ones that I’m worried about beyond what the current situation is, which is us trying to achieve what we all hope we can achieve.”
That answer doesn’t make much sense, though. If Brady really wants to play until he’s 45, wouldn’t it be much easier to clear his mind and focus on winning a Super Bowl in 2019 if he were under contract for another three years? Instead, he has the pressure of proving that he can still play at an elite level, and that his body isn’t breaking down, and that he doesn’t really know what the future holds past this season.
Instead, Brady is detaching a bit, and giving himself options. He’s not under contract past March. He put his Brookline house up for sale last week. Brady can always sign a new deal (before or after the current one voids), and he can always find a place to live in Boston if he’s back with the Patriots next year. But now he has flexibility — to move on to another team should the situation arise, or to move into the next phase of his life with his wife and family and off-field persona.
But if Brady had his way, he’d be all football, all the time. For everything he has accomplished, it still killed him to sit out the first preseason game in Detroit last week.
“I’d much rather be out there playing,” Brady said. “It’s a great highlight of my life, so I hate missing the opportunity to do it. And hopefully I can lobby for some playing time this week down in Tennessee.”
Brady would play football forever if he could. But the decision probably won’t be completely up to him.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.