Over the past few weeks, speculation has run rampant that Tom Brady retired to force his way out of Tampa Bay. Where did this speculation come from? Thin air, basically. Rumors, led most notably by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio and radio host Rich Ohrnberger, suggested Brady wanted to play elsewhere in 2022. San Francisco was often mentioned as a possible destination, given that the 49ers are Brady’s childhood favorite team.
But on Sunday, hours after Brady announced he was returning to the Bucs after a 41-day retirement, the truth came out. ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, who helped break the news of Brady’s retirement, appeared on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt to dispel the rumors.
“How much did Brady explore the possibility (of playing elsewhere), if at all?” asked Van Pelt.
“He didn’t (explore the possibility), as far as I understand it,” Darlington said. “I’ve had conversations with people close to Brady and people with the organization. He was committed to playing with the Bucs if he was going to play in 2022. He was still in contact with them. And still having conversations with the Bucs organization about personnel stuff.
“So this was not a scenario where Brady was saying, ‘If I come back, maybe I’ll go talk to San Francisco’. Or, whatever. This was going to be Bucs or bust. And ultimately that’s what he decided.”
Bucs GM Jason Licht and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
In a statement by Jason Licht shortly after Brady’s announcement went public, the general manager said the Bucs had been preparing for “in recent days”. Licht made it clear at the Combine that Brady could return to the organization this offseason.
“Also, he had the commitment from the organization all along,” Darlington said. “You have to give credit to Jason Licht, the general manager. He could have been quick to turn the page. But he said it himself, ‘I’m gonna leave the light on’. And he knew, he felt it from Brady himself. I think he deserves credit for leaving things in place. Just in case Brady made this very decision.”
Darlington’s comments should end speculation that Brady was ever interested in leaving Tampa Bay. In fact, he loved it so much he abandoned retirement to return to the gridiron. Now, the Bucs can focus their energy on re-signing a host of critical free agents. On Sunday night, center Ryan Jensen re-upped with the team on a three-year deal. Hopefully that is the first of several free agent dominoes that fall the Bucs way this week.