Tom Brady has defied Father Time for years, but even he knows the end is near.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback briefly retired in February before deciding to return for a 23rd NFL season in mid-March. On Monday -- the day after becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to start (and win) a game at age 45 -- Brady admitted that this year has a different feel than others.
"I'm feeling more than things in the past for some reason," Brady told host Jim Gray on his weekly "Let's Go!" podcast. "You know, I'm just really feeling intensely my emotions. And I feel like I always have that, but I think when you get close to the end...
"I don't know exactly where I'm at with that and there's no decision to be made. It's not like I have 10 years left. I definitely don't have that. So all these, I just am never gonna take for granted, you know?"
Brady is still at the top of his game; he led the NFL in passing yards and passing touchdowns in 2021 and his Bucs are 1-0 after dismantling the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. But football also puts other priorities -- like his family life -- on the back burner, and it sounds like Brady wants to move those to the front burner very soon.
"I haven't had a Christmas in 23 years and I haven't had a Thanksgiving in 23 years," Brady said. "I haven't celebrated birthdays with people that I care about that are, you know, born from August to late January. And you know, I'm not able to be at funerals and I'm not able to be at weddings.
"I think there comes a point in your life where you say, 'You know what? I had my fill and it's enough and time to go on, to move into other parts of life.' I push myself to the max and I got everything I could out of my ability."
The seven-time Super Bowl champion certainly has nothing more to prove on the field and has a cushy NFL analyst gig with FOX lined up in retirement. Then again, Brady said he still gets plenty of joy out of the game he's been playing for decades.
"For me, the ability to play and love what I'm doing in year 23 with a new group of teammates and a really committed team -- it's really fun for me," Brady said. "I still enjoy [it], I feel it out there, I feel the joy, I feel the happiness, I feel the camaraderie."
Brady always has worn his emotions on his sleeve during games, and his competitive fire helped him become the greatest quarterback of all time. But don't be surprised if you see a little extra emotion from TB12 this season in what could be his NFL swan song.