Tom Brady is completing his 18th NFL season. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Tom Brady has said in the past that he wants to keep playing well into his 40s, but with nothing at all left to prove — at least to anyone else — it would not have been difficult to envision the 40-year-old quarterback calling it a career after Super Bowl 52, particularly if he were to win his sixth championship. However, Brady said before Sunday’s title game against the Eagles that he has every intention of returning next season.

“Yeah, you’re gonna see me playing football next year,” Brady told Jim Gray of Westwood One. “I don’t envision not playing.

“You’re at the end of the race, but you’ve got your biggest mountain to climb right at the end,” he said. “Hopefully all the lessons we’ve learned have allowed us to be at our very best for this moment, and that’s what it’s going to take, and that’s what we’re prepared for and that’s what I go out and expect our team to do.”

Earlier on Sunday, ESPN’s Dianna Russini had reported (via Pro Football Talk) that “many in the league have been hearing” that the Super Bowl “could possibly be both [Patriots Coach] Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s final games. Both could be hanging it up.”

According to previous reports, the 18-year NFL relationship between Brady and Belichick, which has produced eight Super Bowl appearances, became strained this season. In December, the Boston Globe reported that the coach “created some friction” on the Patriots by curtailing the unusually broad access to the team of Brady’s personal fitness guru, Alex Guerrero.

In January, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham wrote a lengthy article detailing more instances of Brady and the 65-year-old Belichick failing to see eye-to-eye, in particular with the midseason trade of backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers. Those two, plus Patriots owner Robert Kraft, subsequently issued a joint statement proclaiming that “the three of us have enjoyed a very good and productive working relationship” and decrying “multiple media reports that have speculated theories that are unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat-out inaccurate.”

Brady has credited Guerrero with helping to keep him not only in excellent shape, but, through rigorous eating and exercise habits, in superior condition to when he was younger. It’s certainly hard to argue with the results, as Brady on Saturday became the oldest player to win the NFL’s MVP award, the third such honor of his career.

“I never want to be a detriment to the team,” Brady said Monday, during the Super Bowl Opening Night event (via Reuters). “So I think for me, as long as I’m playing at a high level and I make the commitment to take care of myself year-round, I’ll continue to play.”

“Things change quickly. Anything can happen, but obviously I want to keep playing,” Brady added at the time. “I love playing. I just love playing for the Patriots.”

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