Tom Brady matched the hyperbole again in 2021 as the National Football League found its way through the COVID-19 pandemic and grappled with off-field controversy.
After winning his seventh Super Bowl in February — when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers became the first team to clinch the title at home — the immortal 44-year-old Brady has decimated his competition this season, routinely outperforming quarterbacks half his age on his relentless march into the history books.
He led the league with 4,134 passing yards and 36 touchdown passes through Week 14, amassing more than 4,000 passing yards for the 13th time in his record-smashing career.
“He looks like he’s about 25,” Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians told reporters ahead of his enormously hyped Week 4 return to Gillette Stadium, where Tampa Bay defeated his former team the New England Patriots.
Little surprise then that oddsmakers see him as the likeliest candidate for league MVP honors and his Bucs as contenders to retain their title, as Brady on Sunday surpassed the retired Drew Brees’ record for most career pass completions.
In fact the only uncertainty surrounding Brady is when he will be ready to hang up his cleats.
“I’ll have to just, after every year, think about what the situation looks like for me, personally and professionally,” Brady told reporters this month.
“Obviously, I love playing; I don’t think my love will go away. I think I’ll be able to do it, it’s just the other things are kind of happening in my life.”
There was also plenty of drama off the field this year as the new season kicked off amid a public rift between the league and players’ union over vaccines and testing.
The debate came to a head as reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 in November and said he did not lie when he told reporters in August he was “immunized” in response to a question about whether he had received the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback later said he gave people the wrong impression of his vaccination status and the league fined his team $300,000 for violating COVID-19 protocols.
“I shared an opinion that is polarizing. I get it and I misled some people about my status which I take full responsibility of,” Rodgers told “The Pat McAfee Show.”
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