Tom Brady changes mind on retirement, will return to Buccaneers to play 23rd NFL season

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Tom Brady isn’t finished after all.

Just more than a month after he announced plans to retire, the seven-time Super Bowl-champion quarterback announced on Sunday that he actually will return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 2022 season, his 23rd in the NFL.

He announced the news on social media with a statement that read, “These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands. That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa. Unfinished business LFG.”

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski, left, and quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrate after the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Tampa, Fla., Feb. 7, 2021.

Brady and the Buccaneers’ quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions last season fell short, ending in the divisional round on a late-game score in a 30-27 loss to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams.

Brady, who turns 45 in August, produced one of his finest statistical seasons in 2021, completing 67.5% of his passes for 5,316 yards and 43 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. He finished second to the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers in the voting for the Associated Press' NFL Most Valuable Player award. 

"Tom Brady loves to play football as much as anyone I have ever been around," Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said in a statement Sunday. "As Tom said, his place right now is on the football field. He is still playing at a championship level and was as productive as anyone in the league last season. We are ecstatic that he decided to continue playing and working toward winning another championship."

After Brady announced his decision on Feb. 1 to step away from the NFL, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said the organization wasn't ruling out the possibility of a return.

"We are thrilled that Tom has decided to come back this season," Licht said in a statement Sunday. "We said we would leave all options open for him should he reconsider his retirement and today's announcement is something we have been preparing for in recent days.

"Bruce and I have had plenty of conversations with Tom recently that led us to believe there was a realistic chance he would want to come back. Tom is the greatest quarterback of all time who is still playing at an elite level. With this decision now made, we will continue to move forward with our offseason plans to reload this roster for another championship run."

Arians, however, was initially less optimistic about a change of heart for his star signal-caller.

“He slammed it shut when I talked to him,” Arians said of whether Brady had left the door open for a comeback.

Brady's return elevates the Buccaneers back to contender status for 2022. Tampa Bay, however, could be poised to lose several starters in free agency, which officially begins Wednesday. Cornerback Carlton Davis, running back Leonard Fournette, outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston and tight end Rob Gronkowski are among those set to hit the market as free agents. Later Sunday night, however, center Ryan Jensen agreed to terms on a three-year deal to return to the Buccaneers, his agent announced on Twitter.

The Buccaneers placed the franchise tag on wide receiver Chris Godwin, who recorded a team-high 98 catches and 1,103 yards in 14 games before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

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