The answer to the question he is always asked came in the form of a gesture, as his right thumb met his fingers to form a zero.
“Zero,” Tom Brady said with a laugh, verbalizing the percentage chance that he would retire after this year’s Super Bowl, in an interview with ESPN’s Jeff Darlington. “There’s zero. I’ve said that for a long time. I feel like I’m asked that a lot, and I feel like I repeat the same answer, but no one wants to believe me.”
This trip to the Super Bowl — the ninth of his career — and the approach of his 42nd birthday in August prompted the inquiry. It’s a natural one to ask the New England Patriots quarterback, particularly after a season of whispers about the expiration date on Brady’s ability.
“I’ve set a goal for myself at 45,” Brady said. “Like I said before, it’s very hard to make it that far. I know how hard it was this year and the commitment it takes, and hopefully I’ve learned from some of the things that happened this year to be better next year, but every year’s tough.”
Part of the reason people keep asking is because of something he said in his Facebook series “Tom vs. Time.” “If you’re going to compete against me, you better be willing to give up your life because I’m giving up mine.” It’s a tremendous commitment, but Brady also happens to remember that he was the No. 199 draft pick, and he heard people writing him and the Patriots off during the regular season. The evidence for that lay in his comment after beating the Chargers in the first playoff game: “I know everyone says we suck and can’t win any games.”
He echoed that theme Sunday as the Patriots held a rally at Gillette Stadium before leaving for Atlanta. “We’re still here! We’re still here!” he yelled, leading the crowd in a chant.
Still, he admitted to Darlington that the journey to all those Super Bowls is “never linear. Sometimes you’ve got to fight and claw. 2001 was like that. This year was like that.”
Being closer to the end than the beginning of his career is something to think about some other day.
“I’m gonna know [when to quit],” he said, with the full interview airing on Super Bowl Sunday. “I’m gonna know when the time is right. I’m gonna feel like, ‘OK, I’ve kinda had enough.’ I don’t quite feel like that yet. I feel like I’ve made a lot of improvements, and I still feel like I can continue to do it at a championship level. That’s where I was at before and where I am at now.”