Tom Brady has been saying for years that he plans on playing in the NFL until he’s 45 years old, but now that he’s almost reached that goal, it seems that his plans have changed. 

During a recent interview with Peter King of NBC Sports, Brady seemed to insinuate that age will no longer be a factor in his retirement decision and that he’s going to keep playing as long as he thinks he’s good enough to help his team win a Super Bowl. 

“I’ll know when the time’s right,” Brady said of retirement. “If I can’t… if I’m not a championship-level quarterback, then I’m not gonna play. If I’m a liability to the team, I mean, no way. But if I think I can win a championship, then I’ll play.”

Brady, who turned 44 on August 3, will meet his original goal of playing until he’s 45 if he can play for two more seasons and there’s no reason to think he can’t do that. The man played the entire 2020 season with a torn MCL and he was still able to lead the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl win. 

Heading into his 22nd season, Brady is arguably healthier than he’s been at any point over the past decade. The quarterback underwent knee surgery this offseason and the surgery worked out so well that Brady is now able to play without wearing a brace on his left knee. 

Not only is he healthy, but he also has another year under his belt in Bruce Arians’ offense and the longer he stays in the offense, the better he’ll likely get as he becomes more familiar with it (Brady winning the Super Bowl while playing in an offense that he had to learn on the fly should frighten every other NFL team). Brady’s current contract runs through the 2022 season, but if he still wants to play after that, you can bet the Buccaneers will he happy to extend it. 

Although Brady is now leaving the door open for playing past age 45, don’t expect him to play until he’s 50. After Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht suggested in May that Brady might play that long, the seven-time Super Bowl winner shot down that idea pretty quickly. 

“Fifty? That’s a long time. Even for me, that’s a long time,” Brady said when asked about Licht’s comment back in June. 

That sounds like someone who has no interest in playing until he’s 50, which means we now have an official window for Brady’s retirement and that window is anywhere from 2022 (when he’ll be 45) to 2026 (when he’ll be 49). If I had to bet on it, I’d say Brady’s retirement comes after the 2023 season (assuming he doesn’t get injured in 2021 or 2022), although I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Brady tries to break George Blanda’s record as the oldest person to ever play in the NFL. Blanda was 48 years old when he played in his final game in December 1975. Brady will have to play until at least November 2025 to break that record. 

Brady, Gronk and the gang are back. Are the Bucs ready to hoist the Lombardi Trophy again? Download the CBS Sports app to get up-the-minute updates on the defending champs. Favorite the Bucs now if you’ve already downloaded the CBS Sports app so you don’t miss a thing.