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The New England Patriots already were waiting on word from their superstar tight end if he would play in 2018. And we learned Wednesday they haven’t heard from their quarterback about this season either.
Rob Gronkowski spoke about retirement right after last season’s Super Bowl, and on Wednesday morning a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Tom Brady has not formally committed to playing in 2018 either, although Schefter went out of his way to say people close to Brady believe he will play this season.
While that likely makes the report much ado about nothing, anytime “Brady” and “retirement” end up in the same report, it’s a pretty big deal for New England.
Brady has been absent from the voluntary offseason program
It was strange that Brady decided to skip the Patriots’ voluntary offseason workouts. That has happened before, but not since 2010 according to Schefter. He said Brady would work out with his personal trainer Alex Guerrero, who is a key figure in practically any drama the Patriots have had lately. Brady not being at the Patriots’ facility for workouts doesn’t mean he’s retiring, but it was a bit unusual.
People close to Brady say they think he will play
The nature of Schefter’s story was a bit odd, considering the headline was that Brady hasn’t committed to playing but each of the first six paragraphs mention that Brady is expected to play. Brady has played NFL football each season since 2000, and it wouldn’t seem like him coming back for 2018 would need to be announced. But with Brady set to turn 41 years old, the retirement question will hover over him until he steps away. It will this year too, even though he’s coming off an MVP season and a record-setting performance in New England’s Super Bowl loss in February.
“My money would be on him playing football for the foreseeable future, but what goes on away from the football field, I don’t know,” a source told Schefter. “I don’t know.”
The Patriots have to plan for the future at QB right now
New England traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for far less than he was worth last fall because they had to. They were either going to lose Garoppolo or move on from Brady this offseason; it was practically impossible to keep both. If Brady retires this offseason, that trade will look even worse.
But what’s done is done, and while the tone of Schefter’s story doesn’t indicate Brady will retire, it’s also a sign that Brady’s desire to play to his mid-40s might not happen either. Brett Favre played many, many (many, many, many, many) years after first considering retirement, so it’s possible Brady’s nowhere near the end. But the Patriots probably need to plan for the post-Brady era right now. Brian Hoyer is the current backup, and starting him is not a good long-term plan. The Patriots have two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a third-round pick, and it’s not crazy to believe they could move up in the first round to take a quarterback. They’ll certainly be a team to watch during next week’s draft.
There are factors other than football involved
Brady said last January that if it was up to his wife Gisele Bündchen, he would have retired already. Brady has three children and the ESPN story noted he wants to spend more time with his family (he was recently on a trip to Qatar with his family). It’s not easy to do that and balance the grind of being a great NFL starting quarterback. Not many players have ever retired while at the playing level Brady still resides, but it has seemed for a while that the decision will end up being about more than just Brady feeling his play is slipping.
It will be a bit awkward in New England this season
Brady and Gronkowski, one a lock Hall of Famer and another who should be, are both going to face regular questions about their future from here on out. And the story isn’t just about football. There was the famous ESPN story in January about the friction between Brady and coach Bill Belichick. Then another story that Belichick chastising Gronkowski for using Guerrero as his trainer was at the heart of Gronkowski being “miserable” last season. While all of New England will gladly tell you there was nothing to either story, it seems like all of this is interconnected to some level.
The Patriots are still defending AFC champions and expected to be Super Bowl contenders yet again, despite some personnel losses this offseason. But even if Brady plays in 2018, as Schefter’s story said repeatedly he’s expected to do, it’s a little more complicated than usual in New England.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Ohtani gets quick reality check after blazing start
• Report: Brady hasn’t decided on playing in 2018
• McKayla Maroney speaks out on Nassar abuse scandal
• Jeff Passan: How a Twitter war may spark a much-needed MLB change
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