FOXBORO -- Saturday night’s wildcard playoff game at Gillette Stadium was bittersweet for New England Patriots fans, many of whom said they had a strong hunch that it would be the last time they would see quarterback Tom Brady in a Patriots uniform in Foxboro.
Although Brady said after the team’s 20-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans that it is “pretty unlikely” he will retire, fans at Saturday night’s game said they are not confident that he is coming back.
“He’s gone,” said Owen Toombs, 33, a landscaper from Tolland, Conn. “Why would he stay? They haven’t given him any weapons this year. He’s taken pay cuts every year, but they’re still not giving him anything to work with.”
The 42-year-old Brady has spent his entire professional football career as a Patriot and the thought of him wearing another team’s jersey is unsettling for some.
“It will kill me,” said Jason Stratton, 44, a data research manager from Pawtucket, R.I. “I can’t imagine him playing for another team. I’d rather see him retire.”
His friend, Jenna Cunningham, 39, said she would have a “tough time” if Brady was playing for another team against the Patriots. “So I’d root against him? Against my Tommy? I could never -- but the Patriots are my team. I hope I am not ever in that position.”
There is widespread speculation that Brady, whose contract with the Patriots ends in March, on the last day of the 2019 NFL league year, will bid Patriots nation adieu. His Brookline home is on the market and he and supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen have purchased a mansion in Greenwich, Conn.
Mark Morin, 30, a project manager from North Attleboro, said while he hopes Brady doesn’t end his NFL career, “unfortunately it appears that way.”
“We think he will retire,” said Morin, who was at Saturday night’s game with his wife, Colleen, 30, an occupational therapist.
But North Attleboro resident Mike Sieber said he thinks the six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback is staying put, and that he “still has something to prove after this season.”
“The Patriots need to step up and give him a contract,” said Sieber, 56, a software engineer at Dell. “Even though he’s 42 years old, I think he still has a lot of game left in him.”
When asked following Saturday night’s game if he will be back with the Patriots next season, Brady lauded the organization and said he felt “very blessed.”
“... I don’t know what the future looks like and I’m not going to predict it,” he said, before being asked if there is “any possibility” he will retire after this season.
“I would say it’s pretty unlikely, but yeah, hopefully unlikely,” Brady said.
When head coach Bill Belichick -- who has made nine Super Bowl appearances with Brady in their 20 seasons together -- was asked if the Patriots will bring Brady back next season, he said: “Right now we just finished the game, so we’re focused on this game.”
Brady also talked about his future when asked if he had a message for his fans.
“We -- and I personally -- appreciate everything that they’ve contributed over the course of not just this year, but a lot of years. [I’m] just very grateful for the experience of playing this year for this team, this organization, and over the course of my career, too,” he said. “So I appreciate it. I hope ... I’ve always tried to do the right thing out there. Who knows what the future holds, so we’ll leave it at that.”