For a guy who can’t run fast on a football field, Tom Brady just ran a very impressive 40 by swiftly and abruptly ending his retirement after 40 days. Posting the news on his Twitter account, TB12 will be back in Tampa Bay for the 2022 season.

“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” Brady tweeted. “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.”

This was a surprise only to those of us who try to engage in logical thinking. When he “retired” on Feb. 1, Brady was 44 years old. He had set a gazillion records, was still the best quarterback in the NFL, and could walk away with his health intact. Among other things, Brady could spend more quality time hanging with wife Gisele and his kids and polishing his seven Super Bowl rings.

Unfinished business? Brady had nothing left to prove, no more mountains to climb. He didn’t have to absorb heavy hits from pass-rushing diesels. He could settle into a life of leisure and do whatever the heck he wanted to do.

Surely there would be new professional endeavors, away from football. Or maybe he’d just step into a network booth and collect $20 million a year to provide analysis of NFL games. It’s absolutely the easiest money in the world, and Brady could play golf without disruption.

Nah. Not yet. He didn’t even miss a game. He’s back in plenty of time ahead of Tampa Bay’s first minicamp. And Gisele isn’t complaining. Quite the opposite. Here’s what she posted on social media: “Here we go again! Let’s go lovvvey! Let’s go Bucs!”

So why is Brady coming back for his 23rd NFL season, when he’ll be 45? Well, because he’s Tom Brady. Tom Effin’ Brady. He isn’t like the rest of us. After preparing for 363 NFL regular-season and postseason games during his career, Brady wasn’t prepared for civilian life. The fiery Brady competitiveness – the inner Mephistopheles that drives him on – wasn’t ready to retire. Brady’s addiction to competing couldn’t be cured in six weeks.

We’ll keep saying that he doesn’t have anything left to certify in his career; when he’s already the greatest player in NFL history, what could possibly inspire him to play on? And as we keep saying these things, it shows that we’ve never understood him in the first place.

This ravenous desire to fight on – intense as ever – is a huge element in Brady’s brilliance. In the abstract, Brady isn’t competing with Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Matthew Stafford or Joe Burrow. No. Brady is competing against himself and his high standards.

“One thing that separates Tom from everybody else is how hard he works,” retired NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said last year. “He’s maniacally obsessed with being great. Brady fires all the bullets in the gun every practice. He’s working so hard when it would be very easy for him to take the veteran pass.”

If Brady thinks he’s capable of doing more, then he’ll extend the pursuit. If there’s a team to lead, and throws to make, and games to win and another Super Bowl stage on the horizon, he’ll go for it.

And why quit now? Brady should have won the league MVP award for his play in 2021. He led a battered Tampa Bay team to a 13-4 regular-season record by leading the NFL in touchdown passes (43), completions and passing yards (5,316.) Without Brady, the Buccaneers were a 5-12 team. And after a playoff win over Philadelphia, Brady led the Bucs on an amazing rally against the Rams that just fell short because of a bad defensive call that set up LA’s winning field goal.

So if Brady is still having fun, still outperforming other quarterbacks, and thinks he can lead the Bucs on another Super Bowl run … why stop now? As long as Brady is still Brady, there’s no reason for him to pull the plug. And if his family is good with this – then that’s good for us, the fans.

Two things will defeat Brady: time, and mediocrity. So far he has the lead over time, having dedicated more years of his life to football than to his own life away from the game. Depending on how much longer Brady plans to play, time will eventually get him. Because time defeats all of us.

And when time comes for Brady, we’ll see it in his increasing amount of failure on the field. He’ll lose arm strength and accuracy and won’t have the rapid reflexes. He’ll become vulnerable – and beatable. And if Brady ever gets to that unfortunate but inevitable stage, he’ll know it’s time to shut it down.

Brady won’t want to embarrass himself and be the object of pity – the way it was for John Unitas, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler and other immortal quarterbacks. Those legends couldn’t withdraw from competing; it was in their bones. But they were different than Brady, because Brady can still play at the highest level, and age hasn’t taken his talent away. So he has the rare — and perhaps one-of-a-kind — opportunity to play as long as he wants to.

But Brady has been incredibly dedicated to training and keeping all of his parts working as well – better, even – as they did 20 years ago. He put the work in, and that’s why he can still do this better than virtually any quarterback in the league. There’s no reason for Brady to retreat as long as the hard work continues to pay off. His longevity is the payoff, the reward for a relentless work ethic that’s lasted for more than two decades. The performance is still there. The aura is still there.

Brady will know when he’s ready to move onto his next phase of life, and will be content to do very well in his business ventures … without feeling that he must be the greatest of all time in his business ventures.

It’s good to be Tom Brady. So let him be Tom Brady for as long as he wants to fling footballs and win games and give his competitiveness the outlet that makes him thrive. If he says he has “unfinished business,” then that’s all we need to know. And only he can soothe the burning inside.

Thanks for reading …


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