TAMARA KEITH, HOST:
Tom Brady has made it official. After days of unconfirmed reports, the seven-time Super Bowl champ and star quarterback has announced he's retiring from the NFL after 22 seasons. NPR's Tovia Smith reports.
TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: At 44 years old, Tom Brady is hanging up his cleats as the GOAT - the greatest of all time.
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ALAN ROACH: Tom Brady - Super Bowl champion for the seventh time.
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: He's had the most successful career in the history of the NFL. There's no question about it. Tom Brady is it.
SMITH: Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy started covering Brady when he first arrived as a sixth-round draft pick in 2000. Brady was suddenly called into the game after quarterback Drew Bledsoe was injured, and the Patriots were hardly dominant.
SHAUGHNESSY: Yeah, it was dark times here. We were sort of loserville (ph). There was no championships for 16 years in Boston, which was the longest drought we'd ever had. And then fast-forward in Tom Brady's second year, and this Patriots team kind of took the league by storm, and we finally had a champion here. And that kind of ushered in the high renaissance of New England sports.
SMITH: Brady would go on to win six of his seven Super Bowl rings as a Patriot. He's collected five MVP trophies and has broken many league records, from touchdowns to passing yards to quarterback wins - accomplishments that could not be punctured even by the Deflategate controversy in 2016, when Brady was suspended for alleged involvement in a scheme to underinflate footballs.
Explaining his decision to retire today, Brady posted on his Instagram account, quote, "this is difficult for me to write, but it's time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention." He said football is, quote, "an all-in proposition. You have to be 100% committed, or you can't succeed," and he said he can't make that commitment anymore. He alluded to this last week on SiriusXM, talking about his responsibilities to his kids and to his wife, Gisele Bundchen.
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TOM BRADY: You know, it pains her to see me get hit out there. And, you know, she deserves what she needs from me as a husband. And my kids deserve what they need from me as a dad. You know, it's a - it's what relationships are all about. It's not always what I want. It's what we want as a family.
SMITH: Since Brady made it official, the accolades have been pouring in. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called him one of the greatest to ever play in the NFL. The Bucs said they would celebrate his legendary career as the greatest quarterback of all time. And Patriots owner Bob Kraft said it was a dream come true to watch Brady, and that he would always consider him an extension of his immediate family.
Teammates and fans also poured out their love and gratitude and goat emojis on social media. But among New England fans who are still sore that Brady left New England for Tampa Bay, there was also pain - a kind of salt in the wound that Brady's goodbye note thanked the Bucs, but didn't even mention the Pats.
AARON TAINTER: It didn't thank his coach, the owner, any of his Patriots teammates, New England, or any of it, right? So he's obviously saying something by not saying something.
SMITH: Thirty-nine-year-old Aaron Tainter has been a lifelong die-hard Pats fan and Brady fan. Brady did say in a later tweet that he was grateful to Pats Nation and signed it, love you all - but to Tainter, that was too little, too late.
TAINTER: I wish him the best. I enjoyed the time and the memories, but, you know, good riddance.
SMITH: Outside Pats Nation, those kinds of comments were mocked as whiny, sour grapes. Jaqui Knowles grew up a Pats fan in Boston, so she understands. But she now lives in Tampa, where she has been ecstatic for the past two years.
JAQUI KNOWLES: You know, it's hard to lose somebody when you're just so used to winning. You know, I just would hope that everybody, once the sting wears off, that they just sit back and recognize the greatness that they got to witness.
SMITH: As for his next chapter, Brady will be spending time with his family and his many businesses.
Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston.
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