By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) -Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady announced his NFL retirement on Tuesday after an age-defying career during which he won a record seven Super Bowl championships and established himself as arguably the greatest player in the sport’s history.
The 44-year-old Brady, known for his tenacity, intelligent playmaking abilities and remarkable leadership, spent 20 seasons with the New England Patriots where he won six Super Bowl titles and added another last year in his first season with the Bucs.
“I have always believed the sport of football is an ‘all-in’ proposition – if a 100% competitive commitment isn’t there, you won’t succeed, and success is what I love so much about our game,” Brady wrote in a lengthy social media post.
“There is a physical, mental, and emotional challenge EVERY single day that has allowed me to maximize my highest potential. And I have tried my very best these past 22 years. There are no shortcuts to success on the field or in life.
“This is difficult for me to write, but here it goes: I am not going to make that competitive commitment anymore. I have loved my NFL career, and now it is time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention.”
Brady’s decision follows a dominant season during which he led the NFL in touchdown passes and passing yards. He could win a fourth league Most Valuable Player trophy, which would make him the oldest player to win the award.
In what proved to be his final game, Brady rallied the Bucs from a 27-3 second-half deficit against the Los Angeles Rams nine days ago but his team were ultimately eliminated from the playoffs by a last-second field goal.
A surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, Brady’s decision to retire comes after conflicting reports over the weekend about his competitive future.
“I’ve done a lot of reflecting the past week and have asked myself difficult questions,” wrote Brady.
“And I am so proud of what we have achieved. My team mates, coaches, fellow competitors, and fans deserve 100% of me, but right now, it’s best I leave the field of play to the next generation of dedicated and committed athletes.”
A lightly regarded prospect coming out of college, Brady was the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft but made the most of his chance when it finally came and in doing so turned around the fortunes of the Patriots franchise.
At the start of the 2001 campaign Brady was a then-unknown backup but took over the starting role in the second game of the season after starter Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury and he never relinquished the role.
Brady went on to lead the Patriots to an 11-3 record that season, which culminated with an upset win over of the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl where he was named the game’s MVP and so began one of the greatest dynasties across any sport.
“Tom Brady will be remembered as one of the greatest to ever play in the NFL,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“An incredible competitor and leader, his stellar career is remarkable for its longevity but also for the sustained excellence he displayed year after year.
“Tom made everyone around him better and always seemed to rise to the occasion in the biggest moments.”
But Brady’s career was not without controversy.
He was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season as a result of the so-called “Deflategate” scandal after the NFL discovered the Patriots used underinflated balls in a 45-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts that sent them to the Super Bowl.
In 2020, Brady made a surprising decision to join a Bucs team that had not been to the post-season in 13 years and said at the time the move was in part to seek out new challenges and do things that had never been done before.
But despite a different setting, the result was familiar.
Brady, in his first season with his new team, reached his 10th Super Bowl and Tampa Bay became the first team to play the championship game in their home stadium. Brady also became the second quarterback to win a title with two separate teams.
“To my Bucs team mates the past two years, I love you guys, and I have loved going to battle with you. You have dug so deep to challenge yourself, and it inspired me to wake up every day and give you my best,” said Brady.
“I am always here for you guys and want to see you continue to push yourselves to be your best. I couldn’t be happier with what we accomplished together.”
A Northern California native, Brady rewrote the NFL record book during his glittering career, including holding the mark as the all-time leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns and quarterback wins.
He appeared in a record 10 Super Bowls, winning the game’s MVP award five times, and his 15 Pro Bowl selections is the most in league history.
Brady is the father of three and he and his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, have been building a house together near Miami. He said how he spends his days will be a “work-in-progress” but that he wants to spend time giving to others.
“My playing career has been such a thrilling ride, and far beyond my imagination, and full of ups and downs. When you’re in it every day, you really don’t think about any kind of ending,” said Brady.
“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, JUST HOW WE LIKE IT.
“But the friendships and relationships are just as fierce and deep. I will remember and cherish these memories and re-visit them often. I feel like the luckiest person in the world.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Additional reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge, Pritha Sarkar and Toby Davis)