Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said it first.
“I told him if he wants to play til he’s 50 and he’s still playing and he feels like he can still play, then he play until he’s 50,” Licht said of Tom Brady in May.
The quarterback is hesitant.
“50? That’s a long time. Even for me, that’s a long time,” Brady told USA TODAY Sports by phone last week. “I’ve always said 45 was the age that I wanted to reach and that was my goal. This year I’ll be 44, so next year I’ll be 45. I got a two-year contract.
“I’m going to be able to obviously play this year and God forbid anything happens but play next year and then see what happens after that. If I still want to keep playing, I might be able to do that. And if that’s enough, then that would be enough.”
Brady joined the Buccaneers in 2020 after 20 seasons in New England. The quarterback who led the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles claimed a seventh in his inaugural Tampa season. The Buccaneers will return all 22 offensive and defensive starters this season.
Brady enters the season with 79,204 passing yards, 581 touchdowns (the most of all time) and 230 career wins since he was selected in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft. He’s collected 14 Pro Bowl nods and three MVP awards during the stretch. Brady will turn 44 on Aug. 3. He hasn’t missed a game due to injury since the 2008 NFL season, though he had surgery this offseason on a lingering knee injury.
Brady is scheduled to hit free agency months before his 46th birthday.
“I’ll just have to evaluate all that when it comes,” Brady said. “It’s a physical sport; anything could happen. So I’m going to go out there this year and give everything I’ve got like I’ve done every other year, and then take it from there.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.