If you ask Robert Kraft, Tom Brady's days with the New England Patriots shouldn't be over for good.
Brady will return to Gillette Stadium on Sunday night for the first time since leaving the Patriots in 2020 free agency to sign with the Buccaneers. He's seemingly loving his experience in Tampa Bay and shows no signs of leaving anytime soon.
But Kraft is still holding out hope that Brady will retire as a member of the team that drafted him back in 2000.
"I’m always rooting for Tommy, except when he’s playing us," the Patriots owner told former New England linebacker Willie McGinest Sunday on NFL Network. "In the end, I hope and believe he’ll come back here and we’ll give him his red jacket, and he’ll retire a Patriot."
The first half of Kraft's prediction is a given: Brady is a shoo-in to join the Patriots Hall of Fame and should return to Foxboro for that induction ceremony not too long after he retires. (If he ever retires, that is...)
As for the part about Brady retiring a Patriot? Brady is under contract with the Bucs through 2022, and if he wants to continue playing in 2023 (at the incredible age of 46), it seems likely he'll do so in Tampa Bay, where he has found immediate success with a loaded roster and player-friendly head coach in Bruce Arians.
Even if Brady doesn't play another game for New England, though, it's certainly possible he signs a one-day or short-term contract with the Patriots to "retire a Patriot" despite not playing another game with the team.
Perhaps too much has transpired between Brady and Bill Belichick for the QB to sign even an honorary deal with New England. But even if Brady doesn't technically retire with the Patriots, his legacy will always be in New England, where he won six Super Bowl titles and nine AFC Championships during his remarkable 20-year tenure.
In the more immediate future, the Patriots face the enviable task of trying to slow down Brady and the heavily-favored Bucs at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night. Kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.