Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady once -and infamously- said he’d like to play in the NFL until the age of 45-years-old, which, naturally, raised a ton of eyebrows in the NFL world and the real world at the time.

Well, here we sit, on the cusp of the first Sunday of the 2022 NFL season and sure enough, Brady is ready to start for the Buccaneers against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.

At the age of 45-years-old, nonetheless.

Arriving at this point hasn’t been the smoothest journey Brady has seen over the course of his 23-years in the NFL, however.

It’s been a rough ride for the Buccaneers and the seven-time Super Bowl champion ever since Brady announced he was hanging up the cleats back in February. Brady’s return, Bruce Arian’s own retirement, the NFL’s investigation involving the Dolphins that shone a light on impermissible contact with Brady while under contract in Tampa Bay, and then an 11-day hiatus to the Bahamas has kept the media hot on Brady’s and the Buccaneers’ heels over the last few months.

But it was the latter event, the vacation to the Bahamas, that really stirred things up. Even to the point where some prominent figures have suggested Brady could leave the team midyear because he’s that close to retiring, for good.

All of this, combined with Brady’s play-until-45 goal and his massive contract from FOX Sports, has led many people (including yours truly) to suspect that this is Brady’s last year as an NFL quarterback.

NFL Network‘s Ian Rapoport confirmed that suspicion early Sunday morning when he released a report saying sources close to Brady say they believe this is in fact his last year in the NFL.

Rapoport wrote the following on NFL.com:

“The 45-year-old is heading into what is expected to be his final season in the NFL, according to sources with knowledge of his thinking. He has never said it publicly, but multiple parties involved acknowledge that after last year’s retirement then unretirement, the end is coming. That is the understanding, that this is the final year.”

Rapoport did mention there is always a chance Brady plays in 2023 based simply off who’s ultimately holding the Lombardi Trophy, but, that’s more farfetched than it is realistic.

As for Brady retiring, one source close to him cautioned that emotions are fluid and decisions could always come down to who is holding a trophy at the end of the season or feelings based around whether or not that person is Brady. That is conceivable.

Honestly, this shouldn’t be a surprise. For starters, Brady has always maintained he wanted to play until 45 and then, there’s this comment on a 2021 episode of LeBron James’/HBO’s The Shop: Uninterrupted that really gave some insight into what Brady’s thinking regarding retirement:

“We’re coming to the end,” Brady said, regarding his career. “It’s coming to the end.”

Brady once said that 90% of what he says in press conferences isn’t true. But when he said he’s “got a lot of s— going on, man” after the Buccaneers’ preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, that was probably the truest -and most applicable- thing we’ve ever heard him say.

With his family life, NFL legacy, business ventures, and 10-year, $375 million contract awaiting him at FOX, it’s clear he does in fact have a lot going on.

But, unfortunately for the NFL and its fans (especially Bucs fans), expect Brady to have at least one of those responsibilities taken off his plate in just a matter of months.

You can read Rapoport’s full report, here.

Featured image via Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports