November 19, 2018
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Tom Brady talks retirement, anthem protests with Oprah Winfrey

Steven Senne | AP
Steven Senne | AP
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady waves as he steps off the field following an NFL football minicamp practice, Thursday, June 7, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass.

In an interview that aired on Father’s Day, Tom Brady spoke with Oprah Winfrey about how being a parent impacts his thoughts about much longer he’ll keep playing. The Patriots quarterback also discussed NFL players’ protests during the anthem, saying he had “respect” for the demonstrations as part of a wide-ranging conversation that also touched on Deflategate and his relationship with Coach Bill Belichick.

“I think about it more now than I used to,” Brady, who turns 41 in August, said of retirement, in comments to Winfrey recorded before Sunday. “I think I’m seeing that there’s definitely an end coming, sooner rather than later.”

Asked if he saw that end coming at, say, age 43 or 45, Brady replied, “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 — 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 kids that I love, and I don’t want to be a dad that’s not there driving my kids to their games.”

The five-time Super Bowl winner, who has three children, two with wife Gisele Bundchen and an older child with actress Bridget Moynahan, added that he feels “like there’s still more to be accomplished” in football. “I still feel like I can be better, be a percentage better,” he said. “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.”

Brady continued to defy Father Time last season, leading the NFL with 4,577 passing yards while throwing for 32 touchdowns and leading New England to its eighth Super Bowl appearance in his 18 seasons and being named league MVP. That campaign also saw the Patriots join the Week 3 protests that followed President Trump’s harsh criticism of the demonstrations by some players, which included the phrase “son of a bitch.”

Before that week’s game, several Patriots players knelt during the national anthem, and in shows of solidarity after that week, New England players stood on the sideline with their right hands over their hearts and their left hands on the shoulder pads of neighboring players. Belichick said at the time that “one of the greatest things about being in this environment is the diversity of people, backgrounds, viewpoints and relationships we are fortunate to experience,” while team owner Robert Kraft said a month later that “there were some comments made about what our young men were doing that were a little inflammatory and inappropriate.”

Brady, who like Belichick and Kraft has expressed support for Trump in the past, told Winfrey that “there were a lot of really good, healthy conversations coming out of it, in our locker room.” He added, “The great part about sports are the relationships, and I’ve been in it for a long time. I’ve been with guys from all different parts of the country: Every color, race, belief. And you know what? You respect what other people — I mean, I do, I respect why people are doing what they’re doing, and they’re doing it for different reasons, and that’s OK.

“You can do things for your reason, they can do things for their reason, and you have respect for that. But I thought it was great.”

The three-time NFL MVP said that the Patriots “had meetings after practice” to discuss the issue of protests during the anthem and how they wanted to “deal with” it. “I’ve been playing sports long enough, everyone comes from something different, and I think showing respect for everybody, in a locker room, with a team of guys trying to go in the same direction — you better have that empathy for everybody. That’s what sports are about,” Brady said.

Of Deflategate, in which he was made to serve an NFL-mandated four-game suspension to start the 2016 season, Brady said, “It taught me about the people I could really count on, the people that really supported me, and it taught me a lot about life. You know, 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.”

Brady said that after several legal battles that took over a year to unfold, he finally acquiesced to the punishment because he felt “too much anxiety” and “realized I couldn’t win and it was divided attention.” He said he was “tired of waking up and having a call with someone from the players’ association,” so he used the suspension as “an opportunity” to enjoy having “the month of September off for the first time in 21 years.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Winfrey asked Brady whether there was “something going on” between him and Belichick. Reports from last season indicated “friction” between the two, and Brady skipped all of the Patriots’ voluntary training sessions this spring.

“Um, no. I mean, I love him,” Brady said of Belichick (via the Boston Herald). “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. That’s relationships.”

Asked about how he handled losing the Super Bowl this year, as compared to previous defeats in the championship game, Brady mentioned being able to impart a lesson to his children about the importance of trying your best, regardless of the outcome.

“In some ways, this year was easier for me than it has been in the past, and it’s not that I don’t want to win the same,” he said. “There’s other important things in my life.”


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