For 40 days, everyone thought that it was finally over: That Tom Brady, seven times a Super Bowl champion quarterback and arguably the greatest player in pro football history, had finally hung up his helmet and decided to move on after over two decades of unparalleled sustained dominance.
Turns out, it wasn’t over at all.
On Sunday evening, 40 days after announcing his retirement from pro football, Brady reversed course and declared that he would continue playing and suit up in 2022. While Brady will be 45 come Week 1, his leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to an NFC South title and a playoff victory in 2021 showed that he is far from over the hill or truly in twilight. And his return sparked both renewed energy — and familiar dread — across the league.
Here is a sampling of some of the best reactions from NFL teams and players to Tom Brady unretiring.
The biggest winner of Tom Brady coming back for 2022, of course, is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Historically one of the NFL‘s sad sack franchises, Brady’s signing with the Bucs in 2020 led to a new era of Buccaneers success, including their first Super Bowl win and division title since all the way back in 2002.
In that same vein, Brady’s return is also extremely good news for members of the Bucs’ roster. Particularly star wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, both of whom have enjoyed great individual and team success since Brady’s arrival.
While a Super Bowl ring surely takes the sting out of it for Los Angeles Rams star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, he no longer has to deal with the distinction of being the last man to give up a touchdown to Brady. Ramsey got beat by Mike Evans for a 55-yard touchdown in the NFC Divisional Round, which the Rams ended up winning on their way to Super Bowl LVI.
The idea of trying to take Brady down, and the satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment in winning a game against him, has become a major point of pride for NFL players. Brady is enormously respected around the league, as reflected in that tweet by Baltimore Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell.
Tom Brady’s announcement came immediately after he had spent his Sunday watching Manchester United (owned by the Glazer family that owns the Buccaneers) play Tottenham Hotspur. It remains to be seen whether or not watching from the grandstands convinced him he didn’t belong there, but former NFL defensive back and Brady teammate Darius Butler believes it might have.
“Brady sat in those stands one time and said F— that!”, Butler tweeted.
Granted, not everyone was amused to hear Brady had unretired — especially teams in the NFC South. The Carolina Panthers were first victimized by Brady in Super Bowl XXXVIII, and their hopes of competing in 2022 had been rising as they inserted themselves into the Deshaun Watson trade sweepstakes.
The Atlanta Falcons have languished in mediocrity since the Pats’ Brady-led comeback in Super Bowl LI, and him being in their division has been salt in that wound. Even the Denver Broncos — who were feeling quite good about themselves after trading for Russell Wilson — chimed in from the AFC West after many battles with Brady over the years.