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Brady: Retirement coming 'sooner rather than later'

In a wide-ranging interview with Oprah Winfrey broadcast on OWN this weekend, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady stared into the abyss of retirement and acknowledged his football mortality, but provided no real timetable for the end of his storied career.

"I think about it more now than I used to," the 40-year old QB told Winfrey. "I think I'm seeing that there's definitely an end coming, sooner rather than later."

That curious answer clashes somewhat with Brady's previous assertions that he sees himself playing until he's 45 years old and Pats owner Robert Kraft's claim last year that Brady assured he had "six, seven years" left in him. 

"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 explained when asked by Oprah if that "end" could be as far away as his age-43 or age-45 season. "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.'"

As demonstrated by these comments and the end of "Tom vs. Time," Brady remains torn between playing as long as his pliable body will allow and being fully there for his family.

His wife, Gisele Bundchen, made headlines when in the finale of the Facebook Watch series, she said, "These last two years have been very challenging for him in so many ways. And he tells me, 'I love it so much and I just want to go to work and feel appreciated and have fun.'"

That was taken as a sign that Brady was unhappy with the culture in New England and was eyeing the exits. But Brady denied to Winfrey that had any issues working with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, saying, "I mean, I love him. I love that he's an incredible coach, mentor for me. And he's pushed me in a lot of ways. Like everything, we don't agree on absolutely everything. But that's relationships."

While he wouldn't explain how many seasons he has left in him, Brady was definitive in speaking with Oprah that, in regards to football, he feels there are mountains left to climb.

"I still feel like I'm in it. I still feel like I'm doing it. I still feel like there's still more to be accomplished," Brady explained, four months after his eighth Super Bowl appearance. "I still feel like I can be better, be a percentage better. I've played a long time. It's not like you go, 'Hey man, I'm going to become something different.' No. I am what I am. I know my strengths. I've improved on some of the weaknesses. And I still think I want to go out there and compete and play with a bunch of 22-year-olds. It's still a lot of fun."

Brady will be 41 years old in August. Only three quarterbacks have ever started at least 10 games after turning 41 (Brett Favre, Vinny Testaverde, Warren Moon, twice). None of their teams made the postseason.

But Brady isn't like any other quadragenarian quarterback. He is coming off an MVP season in which he threw for a league-best 4,577 yards, tossed 32 touchdowns to just eight picks and came up eight points shy of a sixth Super Bowl title.

When Brady retires, it will likely be on his terms. But what those terms are continue to elude anyone who tries to get an answer out of the future Hall of Famer, even Oprah.

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