Tom Brady’s departure from the Patriots after a breathtaking 20-year career may have come as a surprise to many, but not to Brady himself.
“I don’t think there was a final, final decision until it happened, but I would say I probably knew before the start of last season that it was my last year,” Brady said Wednesday in an interview with Howard Stern on SiriusXM radio.
Brady signed a two-year, $50 million deal with the Buccaneers last month, ending a career in New England in which he won an unprecedented six Super Bowls and earned three regular-season MVP awards.
In what turned into a highly revelatory interview, the quarterback — who usually is careful about what he says for public consumption -- was unusually candid about his career with the Patriots, his relationship with coach Bill Belichick and even his relationship with his wife, Giselle Bundchen.
Brady admitted he wept when he told Patriots owner Robert Kraft in a private meeting — during which Belichick was on the phone — that he had decided to leave the team.
“I went over [to meet with Kraft] and I said, ‘Look, I just want to say how much I love you and appreciate what we’ve done together, but thank you for providing what you have for my family and for my career,’ ” Brady said. “I was able to call Coach Belichick at the same time, and it was great.”
Brady said he has a very good relationship with Belichick and understood that the coach needed to make plans for Brady’s eventual departure.
“I think he has a lot of loyalty,” Brady said. “He and I have had a lot of conversations that nobody has ever been privy to, and nor should they be. So many wrong assumptions were made about our relationship and how he felt about me. I know genuinely how he feels about me. I’m not going to respond to every rumor assumption made, other than what his responsibility as coach is to get the best player for the team, not only for the short term but the long term as well.”
The 42-year-old Brady said he “got into uncharted territory as an athlete, because I started to break the mold of what so many other athletes experienced. I was an older athlete, and he started to plan for the future, which is what his responsibility is, and I don’t fault him for that. That’s what he should be doing.”
Asked if it was important that he finish his career with the only team he’d ever played for, Brady said that wasn’t the case.
“I would say I never cared about legacy. I could give a [expletive] about that,” he said. “I never said in high school, ‘Man, I can’t wait for what my football legacy looks like.’ That’s just not me. That’s not my personality.
"So why would I choose a different place? It’s just time. I don’t know what to say, other than that. I had accomplished everything I could in two decades with an incredible organization and an incredible group of people. That will never change. No one can ever take that away from me. No one can ever take those Super Bowl championships or experiences away from us.”
Brady pushed back on the notion about whether he or Belichick deserves the most credit for the team’s prolonged success.
“I think it’s a pretty [expletive] argument that people would say that,” he said. “I can’t do his job and he can’t do mine. So the fact that you could say, ‘Would I be successful without him?’ The same level of success, I don’t believe I would have been. But I feel the same and vice versa as well. To have him allow me to be the best I can be, I’m grateful for that, and I very much believe he feels the same about me because we’ve expressed that to each other.”
Brady acknowledged to Stern that he changed his offseason regimen in New England in recent years as a response to issues about his relationship with Bundchen.
“A couple of years ago, she didn’t feel like I was doing my part for the family,” Brady said. “She felt like I would play football all season and she’d take care of the house. Then, when the season ended, I’d be like, ‘Great, let me get into all my other business activities, let me get into my football training,’ and she’s going, ‘When are you going to do things for the house? When are you going to take the kids to school?’ That was a big part of our marriage. I had to like check myself because she was like, ‘I have goals and dreams, too.’ . . . I had to take care of my family, because my family situation wasn’t great. She wasn’t satisfied with our marriage. I had to make a change in that.”
How much longer does Brady plan to play? That remains uncertain.
“I could sit here and stop playing football so I could worry about what’s going to happen or worry about this or that instead of saying why don’t I live my life the way I want to and enjoy it?” said Brady, who acknowledged he has suffered concussions during his career, although he didn’t say how many. “For me, it’s doing what I love to do. You don’t tell a musician to stop singing at age 42. You don’t tell a great painter, stop painting at 42. If you want to stop, stop. But me, because I feel like I can still play doesn’t mean I should stop playing because that’s what everyone tells me I should do.”