Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady told fans Tuesday he's retiring from football, saying it's time to focus on other things after an illustrious NFL career that has spanned 22 seasons.
A lengthy Instagram post from Brady, 44, the winner of seven Super Bowls, capped almost 72 hours of speculation since reports first emerged Saturday afternoon that he would hang it up.
Brady wrote of the brutal physical toll and total commitment it takes to play football at the highest level. He made only vague comments about future endeavors.
"This is difficult for me to write, but here it goes: I am not going to make that competitive commitment anymore," wrote Brady, the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown throws.
"I have loved my NFL career, and now it is time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention," he said.
Brady just completed his second campaign with the Buccaneers as the defending Super Bowl champions fell to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC semifinals.
Brady rallied the Bucs from a 27-3 deficit to tie it late before Matt Gay’s field goal at the gun won it for the Rams a week ago Sunday.
As soon as the game ended, speculation ran rampant about Brady’s future and whether he’d return to Tampa Bay for the 2022 season.
And as recently as Monday, it wasn’t clear that Brady was hanging it up.
“I think when the time is right, I’ll be ready to make a decision one way or the other,” he said on the Sirius XM podcast Let’s Go!
But Tuesday at 9:35 a.m. ET, Brady made it official.
"I've done a lot of reflecting in the past week and have asked myself difficult questions," he wrote. "And I am so proud of what we have achieved."
The will-he-or-won’t-he drama had become a running joke throughout the sports world.
The self-effacing New York Jets, a regular punching bag of Brady’s, jokingly tweeted Tuesday, “this better be real.”
“But seriously, congrats on a first-ballot, Hall of Fame career,” said the Jets, who lost 30 of 37 games to teams led by Brady. “We may not miss seeing you on the field, but the entire football world will.”
Brady went to great lengths to thank nearly everyone in his inner circle, including family, teammates and coaches.
By name, he shouted out the Bucs’ owners, the Glazer family, Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht, Bucs coach Bruce Arians, personal trainer Alex Guerrero, agents Don Yee and Steve Dubin, his wife, Gisele Bündchen, and his children, Jack, Benny and Vivi.
Brady has spoken openly about his wife's desire for him to leave football and the emotional pain she suffered with every hit he took.
"Her selflessness allowed me to reach new heights professionally, and I am beyond words what you mean to me and our family," he wrote Tuesday.
He added a sentence in Bündchen's native Portuguese, "Te amo amor da minha vida," or "I love you, love of my life."
Despite having played two seasons in Tampa and two decades in Foxborough, Massachusetts, Brady conspicuously failed to make any mention of the New England Patriots and coach Bill Belichick in Tuesday's lengthy statement.
Under Belichick, Brady and the Pats captured Super Bowl titles in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft thanked Brady for taking a middle-of-the road franchise to become of the great dynasties in modern sports.
“Words cannot describe the feelings I have for Tom Brady, nor adequately express the gratitude my family, the New England Patriots and our fans have for Tom for all he did during his career," Kraft said in a statement Tuesday.
"In a team sport like football, it is rare to see an individual have such a dominant impact on a team’s success," he said.
Brady stunned the football word in spring 2020, when he left New England for Tampa Bay.
"My playing career has been such a thrilling ride, and far beyond my imagination, and full of ups and downs," wrote Brady, a native of San Mateo, California, who was a sixth-round draft choice out of the University of Michigan.
"When you're in it every day, you really don't think about any kind of ending. As I sit here now, however, I think of all the great players and coaches I was privileged to play with and against — the competition was fierce and deep."
Before Brady arrived in Tampa, the Buccaneers had captured one Super Bowl title in 44 seasons. The franchise is best known for a 26-game losing streak it endured shortly after its birth as an expansion franchise.
Brady leaves the Bucs having brought them one Lombardi Trophy in just two seasons of play.
“Tom arrived in Tampa Bay with an unprecedented level of expectations and delivered some of the most memorable moments in our franchise history,” the Glazer family said in a statement.
"His impact on our team and community was immediate and profound. Tom’s remarkable NFL journey has come to an end, but we will continue to celebrate his legendary career as the greatest quarterback of all time and are appreciative and grateful for the time he spent as a Buccaneer," the Glazers said.
Widely considered the greatest quarterback in NFL history, Brady leaves the sport with more yards passing (84,520) and touchdown throws (624) than any other quarterback in the game’s history.
Beyond the numbers, Brady also leaves behind an unprecedented legacy of winning, not just winning seven Super Bowl rings but also playing in 10 title games.
This past season was one of his best; he passed for 5,316 yards and 43 touchdowns, both league highs.
The high level of play prompted Brady to speak openly about possibly playing to age 50 in what was simultaneously a mind-blowing and realistic goal.
The next oldest players to suit up in the NFL this past season were 39 and 40 years old. The group included just-retired Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, two offensive linemen and two punters.
The Super Bowl, to be televised by NBC on Feb. 13, will feature the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals, led by head coaches considerably younger than Brady — Sean McVay, 36, and Zac Taylor, 38.
Brady’s longevity has been a source of wonderment for years, and he has sought to capitalize on it with books about health, diet and exercise.
Plenty of sleep, no late-night eating and early morning workouts are among the most basic elements of his regimen. But he has also taken an unconventional stance against nightshade vegetables, such as potatoes, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes.
Brady has been an outspoken critic of the food industry, having famously called out beloved American brands Coca-Cola and Frosted Flakes in 2015.