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Tom Brady hints at age 45 retirement on Instagram

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Welcome to the excavation period of the NFL calendar.

With NFL players and coaches on summer break, we, the football fans, are left to dig around to insatiate our daily need for pigskin content.

Beat reporters shovel through notebooks and recorders, looking for old quotes and notes on previously passed story ideas, hoping to stumble upon mind-sparking concepts to flesh out over the next five weeks.

National insiders peck at the periphery of big storylines that will take them into training camp, while doling out middling transactional information along the way.

And fans are left to read the Tweets, Facebook posts and Instagrams of players on vacation or doing charity work to fill the gaps in between.

Adding social media to the excavation portion of the NFL offseason resulted in a rare dynamic wherein fans and media peck over player and team accounts like an archaeologist unearthing a 75-million-year-old fossil, slowly and calmly brushing away the sediment in hopes of keeping the bone intact.

These social media scientists unearthed a whopper on Tuesday.

Tom Brady made headlines over the weekend telling Oprah his retirement would come "sooner rather than later."

Of course, that led to everyone and their step-cousin speculating what "sooner" could possibly mean. Next week? After this season? Next season? Eighteen months? 199 days? 650 days? Two years? Three years????

Brady, a social media master, playfully commented on an ESPN Instagram post about the speculation, hinting his original timeline for retirement plans hasn't changed.

"Cuarenta y cinco," Brady wrote, accompanied by three monkey emojis: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

Cuarenta y cinco, for those unversed, means 45.

Brady's comment matches what he's said previously: He'd like to play until he's 45 years old.

Perhaps Brady's Instagram comment is his way of re-guiding the conversation after talk of his eventual retirement has taken on a different tone this offseason. Maybe he's just having fun, knowing the Boston media might see his post. Heck, maybe some social media manager went rogue and today Brady is dealing with fallout (this will surely be the script for a NCIS: Social Media in the future).

In his interview with Oprah, Brady pointed to his children as a main consideration in how long he'll continue to play.

"As long as I'm still loving it. As long as I'm loving the training and preparation and willing to make the commitment," Brady said. "But it's also [that] I think what I've alluded to a lot in the ['Tom vs. Time'] docuseries was there's other things happening in my life too. I do have [three] kids that I love, and I don't want to be a dad that's not there driving my kids to their games. I think my kids have brought a great perspective in my life, because kids just want the attention. You better be there and be available to them, or else they're going to look back on their life and go, 'Dad didn't really care that much.'"

Brady turns 41 on Aug. 3. If he plays through his age-45 season, he has five years left.

For the first time in his career, Brady is admitting the end is near. Whether that's in one year or five, we can agree that instead of fretting over when that day might come, we should enjoy watching the greatest quarterback ever while we can.

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