FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Acknowledging that he’s closer to retirement as he approaches his 41st birthday in August, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired Sunday that he’s still motivated to keep playing.
“I think about it more now than I used to. I think I’m seeing that there’s definitely an end coming, sooner rather than later,” the reigning NFL MVP said.
Asked if that would be at 43 or 45 years old, Brady answered: “As long as I’m still loving it. As long as I’m loving the training and preparation and willing to make the commitment. But it’s also (that) I think what I’ve alluded to a lot in the [“Tom vs. Time”] docuseries was there’s other things happening in my life too. I do have [three] kids that I love, and I don’t want to be a dad that’s not there driving my kids to their games. I think my kids have brought a great perspective in my life, because kids just want the attention. You better be there and be available to them, or else they’re going to look back on their life and go, ‘Dad didn’t really care that much.'”
Earlier in the interview, when Brady was discussing why he’s uncomfortable with people referring to him as the “greatest of all time,” he said: “I still feel like I’m in it. I still feel like I’m doing it. I still feel like there’s still more to be accomplished. … I still feel like I can be better, be a percentage better. I’ve played a long time. It’s not like you go, ‘Hey man, I’m going to become something different.’ No. I am what I am. I know my strengths. I’ve improved on some of the weaknesses. And I still think I want to go out there and compete and play with a bunch of 22-year-olds. It’s still a lot of fun.”
The wide-ranging discussion covered Brady’s early years in football, training regimen, spirituality, players kneeling during the national anthem, and parenthood, among other things. Brady shared his view that a great aspect of sports is how it brings people together. The interview ended with Brady reading a letter he previously posted on social media about the importance of will.
Specific to the 2018 Patriots, Brady was asked if he trains separately from the rest of the team.
“No, I wouldn’t say that, but I probably do some of my own techniques differently from the rest of the team,” he answered. “The team, I would say, like most teams are very systematic in their approach. And what I learned, I guess, is different from some of the things that are systematic but that work for me. It’s nothing that I don’t talk about with my coach and owner — ‘This is what I want to do; this is what I need to be the best player I can be and hopefully you can support that.'”
Brady was then asked if “something going on with you and [coach Bill] Belichick?”
He responded, “Umm, no. I mean, I love him. I love that he’s an incredible coach, mentor for me. And he’s pushed me in a lot of ways. Like everything, we don’t agree on absolutely everything. But that’s relationships.”
Of what Deflategate taught him about himself, Brady said, “It taught me the people I could really count on, the people that really supported me, and it taught me a lot about life — sometimes you do the best you can do and it doesn’t work out. There were a lot of frustrations and I tried to fight as hard as I could for what I believe in.”
Asked what led him to finally let it go, he said, “Just too much anxiety. I realized I couldn’t win and it was divided attention. I was tired of that. Tired of waking up and having a call with someone from the players’ association. I just said ‘You know what, I’m going to use this as an opportunity to … I had the month of September off for the first time in 21 years, and I’m going to take advantage of this.’
“The first thing I did, my wife and I and our kids, we flew out to see my parents. My mom was just starting treatment for cancer and I said ‘We’re going golfing and we’re going to go to Pebble Beach.’ We never went on a honeymoon, my wife and I, so we said, ‘Look, we’re going to go to Italy in September.’ So I said, ‘Man, that was the best month off I think I’ve ever had.’
“In some ways, it was a great experience in my life. I think you look back on those experiences, and it was a really tough experience in my life.”
Asked if he would have handled it differently, Brady said, “No.”
Reflecting on the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Feb. 1, 2015, Brady called it “probably one of the greatest experiences” in his life. Part of the satisfaction was that he had won three Super Bowls in the first four years of his career, but then went a decade before capturing another one.
In 2007, on the other hand, there was devastation.
“We had, I think, one of the greatest football teams in the history of football — went undefeated, got to the Super Bowl, we played the Giants, and we lost. It was a month before I really felt back to myself. It was a nightmare,” he said. “You woke up the next morning and said ‘It didn’t happen. There’s no way that happened.'”
Brady explained that he didn’t have the same feeling after this year’s Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He said it took him only two to three weeks to recover, in part because of the perspective he had as a father, teaching his children that no one wins all the time.