TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady was adamant Thursday that he did not have any sort of rift with former head coach Bruce Arians, who announced his retirement shortly after Brady announced he was returning.
He did not, however, deny reports that he had spoken with the Miami Dolphins about joining their organization in some capacity, and he indicated he would not pressure tight end and close friend Rob Gronkowski to return.
"Zero whatsoever," Brady said of Arians. "He and I have a great relationship. Part of the reason I chose here was because of Bruce. I mean, he and I have been -- incredible communication -- I have great respect for him. He knows how I feel about him -- that's the most important thing. And I know how he feels about me."
As for the Dolphins, who reportedly were interested in getting Brady in a front-office capacity and/or as a quarterback, although he was under contract with the Buccaneers for one more season, Brady said, "I had a lot of conversations with a lot of people, I've had for the last three or four years of my career, about different opportunities when I'm done playing football, so, I kind of made a decision of what I'd like to do, and I'll get to be in the game of football.
"I think for me, the most important thing is where I'm at now and what I hope to do for this team. That's been my commitment to this team and this organization. It's been so much fun for me to come here two years ago. It's been almost 2½ now and it's been an incredible part of my football journey. And it's not over."
With Gronkowski, lured out of retirement by Brady for the 2020 season in Tampa, the two have gotten together this offseason for throwing sessions. But Brady gave no indication Wednesday of which way Gronkowski is leaning.
"I think it's just obviously totally up to him and we'd all love to play with him, but he's got to make the best decision for himself and he knows that," Brady said. "Anyone who cares about him knows that he's doing what's right for him, which is trying to figure it out -- we don't have training camp for about six weeks, so whatever he's gotta do to figure it out. I think we'll be hopeful he does, and if he doesn't, we still gotta go out there and figure out what to do."
Brady also opened up about his decision to retire, which he announced Feb. 1, and then unretire, which he announced March 13. Family played an integral role in both as his priorities have shifted since becoming a husband and father to three children, even admitting he needs to improve in those areas.
"It's very easy when you're 25 to know what you want to do next year," Brady said. "It's very challenging when you're 43 or 44 because there's other things that are pressing and other things that are really important in your life, like your kids and your wife and different relationships, things that have always taken a back seat to football. I think that's just how it's gone for me. It's challenging, and I've got to work at those things.
"I think when the football season starts, everybody knows that it's 100 percent football. It's just the way you have to be, and that's a big commitment to make. And in order to play every game, you've got to train really hard. I've got to train really hard at 44 years old, which is a big commitment. To try to make those decisions -- [they] have their challenges. It's not like it was when I was 25, but I don't think any of us feel like we were when we were 25.
Thankfully for good reasons, there's parts where I'm happy I'm not 25 and there's other parts where I wish I felt like I was like a little more like 25, but I have a very complex, tricky life in different aspects -- I'm just trying to navigate it the best way I can."
Could he feel happy and whole away from professional football, or will it always define him?
"I fell in love with this sport when I was a young kid, and I still think there's a great love for it. I think I always will, unfortunately," Brady said. "Beyond it -- I'm going to stay in football now, it's pretty clear. So, that'll be fun. I look forward to whenever that happens and whenever I decide to make that decision and retire -- I think there's a lot of things about me not ending up, kind of, having a normal offseason. I got to figure out what it would look like, which was really interesting to me. ... It should be a smoother transition than I would have thought."
The Bucs lost to the Rams 30-27 in the NFC divisional playoff Jan. 23. Some teammates felt that Brady wouldn't be able to stay away because of the loss, while others were convinced it was the end, making for an emotional roller coaster of an offseason.
"I kind of knew. I told him probably two days after the game -- I'm like, '[Tom], we can't go out like that,'" running back Leonard Fournette said. "He agreed with me. We left too many mistakes on the field that kind of messed us up. We were playing catch-up the whole game. I think as a champion, I knew he wouldn't want to go out like that for his legacy."
"I was down here," wide receiver Mike Evans said, pointing toward the floor, "and then I went up here. I had no reason to believe he would come back. He's done everything, made a lot of money, best career ever. And he still wants to play. He just loves this game and he loves his teammates and he wants to win. He said it's a sour taste left in his mouth -- there's one in mine as well. I'm happy we've got him back for at least one more year."
Brady did a lot in his 40-day retirement stint. He poured himself into his new Brady clothing line, filmed two movies, played in TNT's The Match golf outing and agreed to a reported $375 million television deal with Fox Sports to become an analyst after he retires for real. But somehow he still managed to stay in top shape.
"We've still got a lot to accomplish," Brady said. "I've got a long life ahead and there's a lot of fun things to do ahead; I'm looking forward to what's ahead in football, but at the same time -- none of us are promised much beyond what we have now. This is the current moment, and I'm really excited about going out there to try to compete and win a championship."