NFL quarterbacks don’t usually miss an extended period of time shortly before the season begins, but Tom Brady is not a usual quarterback.
“There’s not many 45-year-olds playing at an MVP level with seven Super Bowls in their back pocket,” General Manager Jason Licht said with a smile on Tampa radio station WDAE, “so we’re not at all concerned about that.”
Licht added that Brady’s previously unannounced absence, which began Thursday, had been in the works.
“He’s going to deal with some personal things,” Coach Todd Bowles told reporters after practice Thursday. “It’s something we talked about before training camp started.”
Bowles indicated that Brady, who briefly retired after last season before changing his mind and returning to the Bucs, was taking advantage of the fact that he was going to be held out of Tampa Bay’s first two preseason games. The team hosts the Miami Dolphins on Saturday before traveling to Tennessee to play the Titans on Aug. 20. Tampa Bay’s preseason slate ends with a road game at the Indianapolis Colts on Aug. 27, then it faces Dallas on “Sunday Night Football” to begin the regular season.
Bowles said Brady would return after the Titans game. In the meantime, the coach said, his absence helps the team’s backup quarterbacks — Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask and Ryan Griffin — gain valuable training reps.
“We trust him,” Bowles, in his first season as the Bucs’ head coach, said of Brady. “We talked about it.”
When asked if the quarterback’s issue was health-related, Bowles said: “It’s a personal issue. That’s all I can tell you.”
Bowes said he had a “pretty high” level of confidence that Brady will be under center in Week 1.
Brady’s level of commitment to the Bucs has been questioned in some quarters following the revelation that, despite his contractual status with Tampa Bay, he and his agent had impermissible contact with the Dolphins during and after the 2021 season. That news emerged from an NFL investigation resulting in punishment to the Dolphins’ owner, Stephen Ross, and his team for violating league policies related to the integrity of the game.
That dalliance with Miami, which the NFL also revealed included impermissible communication in 2019 and 2020, when Brady was a member of the New England Patriots, continued to hover over the Bucs this week because they are spending several days practicing against the Dolphins ahead of their preseason matchup.
Brady has not spoken with the media about the NFL investigation. After he and Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa were spotted conversing Wednesday on the practice field, the Miami starter told reporters he was picking the brain of the 22-year NFL veteran for tips on how to sustain such stunning longevity.
As to his feelings on the Dolphins’ years-long pursuit of Brady — which may not quite be over — Tagovailoa said Wednesday: “I’m still here. To me, that’s all noise at this point.”
Bowles, when asked Thursday if had any concerns that Brady’s absence was related to a possibly wavering commitment to the Bucs, replied, “Per our conversation, I am not worried, no.”
“Of course, we were going to let him do what he needs to do,” Licht said of Brady in his radio appearance. “He’s focused as ever. He’ll come back even more focused. It’s the least of our concerns. … Business as usual here.”