Tom Brady’s 23rd NFL campaign may be the most mysterious after a strange offseason

Tom Brady’s professional life, officially, at least, is expected to go on as usual – he will suit up for his 23rd NFL season on Sunday when his Tampa Bay Bucs visit the Dallas Cowboys.

Tom Brady’s personal life, officially at least, is mostly a mystery. There have been some tangible developments this offseason, including the withdrawal and retirement, missing spring work, starring in a Miami tampering scandal, and an 11-day (excused) absence from training camp … not to mention reports of marital strife and Costa Rica.

But who really knows?

As Brady notes, “I’m 45 years old, man. There are many [expletive] it goes on, so you just have to try to find life as best you can.”

Well yes. Yes it is and yes it definitely exists.

How one affects the other, however, is what no one knows, heading into perhaps the final season of one of football’s all-time greats.

Some men face a midlife “crisis” by buying a Porsche. Brady has become the biggest mystery in the NFL.

It’s been a strange offseason for Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Tom Brady. Will he be ready to go when the season opens Sunday against Dallas? (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)

Consider that over the weekend, Bucks coach Todd Bowles was even asked if he thought Brady was “all-in” on the season, which is notable if only because it makes perfect sense to question even a player who has accused of being very “all-in” in football, never “all-in” enough.

“He’s been all-in since we got him,” Bowles said. “It’s all-in now.”

This is the man who brought avocado ice cream into the national consciousness, after all.

“As you get older, life changes a lot,” Brady said on the “Let’s Go” podcast Monday, referring to the situation. “There are different responsibilities that take shape in your life. There are different perspectives that you gain.

“When I was 25, all I could think about was football,” he continued. “This was my life. It was eat, sleep, drink football… over time, other priorities develop [and] … you put time and energy into these things.”

Last season, Brady led the NFL in passing yards (5,316) and touchdowns (43), was ranked the No. 1 player in the league by his peers, per NFL Network, and had the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams win if Not for a final minute, Matthew Stafford-led touchdown drive.

There is no reason to believe that much will change this season. Except that all seems to be changing this season, including Brady’s willingness to talk about his work/life balance challenges that may or may not lead to New York Post stories about his marriage.

“There’s a big camera that’s always on you,” Brady said on the podcast. “You live your life but also your sports life. They cover sports, but they also cover your life and you. And you can’t stop your life even though sports happen…

“Well, even though I’m a 23-year-old, I have a freshman in high school that also plays football,” Brady said. “I have a 12-year-old who is having the time of his life. I have a 9 year old who is having the time of her life. And I have parents. I have a lot of things that are really important off the field pursuits and goals that you try to maximize as well.

“Well, we all have different things going on and I think once football season comes around, I really lock in what I need to do and how I need to focus.”

Take all of this, including who is mentioned and who is not, for what it’s worth. It all makes sense. It is also a new level of introspection from TB12.

And it’s part of a newsworthy offseason.

The offseason withdrawal/retirement was strange — “I just felt like I had a little bit left. And I want to give it a shot,” Brady said of the decision. It’s not that one player was indecisive, it’s that Tom Brady he was indecisive. The man is a methodical planner, not an emotional decision maker.

Then there was the Miami hacking scandal where it was revealed that during Brady’s final season in New England he was in contact with the Dolphins about joining the team.

The NFL found that Brady engaged in “numerous and detailed conversations” with Miami executive Bruce Beal as part of the Dolphins’ “impermissible communications.” That included a reported visit to team owner Steven Ross’ yacht that made then-Dolphins coach Brian Flores uncomfortable, according to court documents.

Brady faced no discipline in the case, but then again, was he really talking to a division rival while still in Foxboro?

Then comes Bowles’ rise to head coach of the Bucks. There was plenty of speculation that Brady was somehow involved in Bruce Arians’ retirement, and Brady himself looked into whether there was any truth to their deteriorating relationship.

“Zero,” Brady said. “[Bruce] and I have a great relationship.”

Meanwhile, he already accepted his next job, a 10-year, $375 million contract with Fox Sports that begins not at the start of the 2023 season, but when he stops playing.

Finally, there’s all the personal stuff, which can’t be fun regardless of the level of truth.

Maybe all smoke is just smoke. Or maybe not. Skipping 11 days of training camp — while not a big deal from either the team or the quarterback — ran counter to everything Brady has ever been.

Preparation is his thing. Time with his teammates is his thing. Or was.

So here we are, entering the 23rd season with so much talk about the level of commitment of perhaps the most dedicated footballer of all time.

It’s at least Brady’s craziest offseason since 2016, when he battled the NFL in federal court over the Deflategate scandal, only to end up serving a four-game suspension to start the season.

No one was sure what to expect then, either. There was also a lot of talk about focus and priorities.

Brady went 14-1 as a starter and won the Super Bowl.

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