By ROB MAADDI
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady’s retirement lasted 40 days. Brady said Sunday he’s returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for his 23rd NFL season.
The seven-time Super Bowl champion announced his decision on Twitter and Instagram, saying he has “unfinished business.” The news stole the spotlight from the NCAA’s Selection Sunday.
“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” Brady wrote. “That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa.”
Brady led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title following the 2020 season and NFC South championship last season. He teamed with coach Bill Belichick to win six Super Bowls during 20 seasons with the New England Patriots.
The 44-year-old Brady led the NFL in yards passing (5,316), touchdowns (43), completions (485) and attempts (719) in 2021, but the Buccaneers lost at home to the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round.
“Tom Brady loves to play football as much as anyone I have ever been around,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said. “As Tom said, his place right now is on the football field. He is still playing at a championship level and was as productive as anyone in the league last season. We are ecstatic that he decided to continue playing and working toward winning another championship.”
Brady cited his desire to spend more time with his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and three children when he decided to walk away from the game on Feb. 1. But he changed his mind about staying home, a day after attending the Manchester United match against Tottenham Hotspur. Brady sat with the Glazer Family, who own Manchester United and the Buccaneers.
His reversal sent shock waves throughout the sports world, and his teammates and Buccaneers fans reacted with jubilation.
All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs called it “unreal.” Receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin shared their joy in emojis.
Giants safety Logan Ryan said Brady’s return is “good for football.” Rams star cornerback Jalen Ramsey tweeted: “THANK YOU! throw that last touchdown on somebody else.”
Many Hall of Fame players across several sports returned to playing after retiring, including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy in the NBA, Brett Favre and Reggie White in the NFL, Guy Lafleur and Mario Lemieux in the NHL.
The Buccaneers are hopeful star tight end Rob Gronkowski also returns. Brady convinced his buddy to unretire to join him in Tampa in 2020. The team lost Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet, who retired at age 28. But Godwin is staying after getting the franchise tag.
Brady’s decision comes right before the NFL free agency period begins. The Bucs have several key players set to hit the open market: running back Leonard Fournette, cornerback Carton Davis, safety Jordan Whitehead, linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Gronkowski and others.
They kept one of those key players when Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen agreed to a three-year contract late Sunday night, his agent Mike McCartney said on Twitter.
Brady’s return should impact their decisions and the team’s plans. Tampa’s odds for winning the Super Bowl went from 25:1 to 7 1/2:1, tied with Green Bay for second-best behind Buffalo at 7:1, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
“We are thrilled that Tom has decided to come back this season,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said. “We said we would leave all options open for him should he reconsider his retirement and today’s announcement is something we have been preparing for in recent days.
“Bruce and I have had plenty of conversations with Tom recently that led us to believe there was a realistic chance he would want to come back. Tom is the greatest quarterback of all time who is still playing at an elite level. With this decision now made, we will continue to move forward with our offseason plans to reload this roster for another championship run.”
Brady is the NFL’s career leader in yards passing (84,520) and TDs (624). He’s the only player to win more than five Super Bowls and has been MVP of the game five times.
Brady has won three NFL MVP awards, been a first-team All-Pro three times and selected to the Pro Bowl 15 times. He is 243-73 in his career in the regular season and 35-12 in the playoffs.
He’s back to build on all those numbers.