In Being Honest, Gisele Reveals the Fantasy of Tom Brady's Never-Ending Career

Mike FreemanNFL National Lead WriterMay 19, 2017

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates with wife Gisele Bundchen and daughter Vivian Brady after defeating the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. The Patriots defeated the Falcons 34-28.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If there was one thing that Gisele Bundchen did—maybe accidentally, maybe not—this week, it was showing the fallacy of Tom Brady playing in the NFL for another five years. 

Bundchen, in an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning, spoke about her husband's alleged concussion history, saying Brady suffered one last season and has had them throughout his career. Whether he hid the concussions, or the team did, is a subject for another day, especially to players with whom I spoke after the Bundchen news broke.

Rather, players around the league were more interested in discussing how the violence of the sport has long made it laughable that Brady can play until his mid-40s, as Brady believes and has said he can. No player I interviewed thinks the Patriots quarterback, or any human being, can accomplish this.

"It was always a joke to think that Brady can play that long," said one veteran, who has also faced Brady. "It's impossible."

One of the main reasons why, players said, was head trauma.

"Tom is the greatest player I've ever seen," one of Brady's division rivals told B/R, "but when I got concussions in my 20s, it took me weeks to recover. If you get one at 43 or 45, I don't think your brain would ever be the same again."

Saints quarterback Drew Brees, however, thinks concussions are becoming less dangerous because players understand them now.

"We know as players that you have to heal the brain, like other parts of the body that get injured." Brees told B/R while speaking on behalf of The Heat Factor.

Brees said he believes it is "physiologically possible" for Brady to play well into his 40s, although at age 38 himself and entering his 17th season, the 2009 Super Bowl MVP admitted he is taking his career year-to-year at this point.

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 13:   Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots and  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints talk after the game at Gillette Stadium on October 13, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.The New England Patriots defeated the New Orleans Sain
Elsa/Getty Images

Enticing as it may be to play as long as possible, is it worth the possible long-term price? 

"I think players are realizing now that the window in the NFL is so short," said former offensive lineman Jeff Saturday on ESPN's Mike and Mike, "to sacrifice the next 30 years of your life, it's not worth it ... Forgetting who your kids are and not being able to deal with your wife. All those things are real ... There's not a game, a practice, that will ever be worth that."

Saturday touched on a point that other players have mentioned repeatedly in interviews with me—that players increasingly see staying longer in the NFL not just as dangerous in the immediate term, but as something that can erode decades from their mental health.

The violence in football overwhelms any mechanisms to try to counter it. Nutrition doesn't matter. Health doesn't matter. People in their 20s can barely survive the NFL, let alone people in their 40s.

Running back Justin Forsett recently retired at the age of 31. And while his position brought with it an obvious difference in the physical pounding he would have taken as a quarterback, he also left the game while eight years younger than Brady, and 14 years younger than Brady hopes to be when he ends his career. "After every game, I felt like I'd been in a car wreck, several times," Forsett told B/R last month. "The recovery time was getting longer. By midseason, it was taking me until Saturday to fully recover. I'm going to need shoulder surgery. Maybe some work on my knees."

Brady doesn't get hit as often, or as brutally, as Forsett did, but we've seen plenty of quarterbacks leave the game in wretched shape. Ken Stabler suffered from CTE. Jim McMahon, who played on that great 1985 Bears team, says he suffers from dementia. Peyton Manning retired after multiple neck surgeries.

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is sacked by Grady Jarrett #97 of the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty I
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Both Brady and people around him have said he plans to play for years. Patriots owner Robert Kraft told reporters at the owner's meetings in March that Brady told him that month he plans to play six or seven more years.

"I always said my mid-40s," Brady said of the prospect of retirement in a recent interview with ESPN's Ian O'Connor, "and naturally that means around 45. If I get there and I still feel like I do today, I don't see why I wouldn't want to continue."

"My wife says lots of things sometimes," Brady continued through the faint trace of a chuckle.

"She makes decisions for our family that I've got to deal with. Hopefully, she never says, 'Look, this has to be it.' ... My wife and my kids, it's a big investment of their time and energy, too."

Bundchen created waves across the sports commentary landscape this week after telling CBS that Brady "had a concussion last year. I mean he has concussions pretty much every—I mean, we don't talk about—but he does have concussions."

There's little reason to think Bundchen is wrong, which is curious considering none of the concussions were reported. (I reviewed all of the Patriots' injury reports from last season, and concussions were never mentioned.) But, again, that is a separate discussion.

This story is about the mortality of players and the fact that no one is immune.

Brady is essentially the face of the NFL right now. And while he's portrayed, in many ways, by himself, and people around him, as almost indestructible, stories of his belief he can play until he's 45 cause many of us to temporarily forget these players are bashing their heads in and possibly doing irreversible damage to their minds.

The NFL isn't a fairytale where the knight valiantly fights the dragon and then rides off into the sunset. The NFL is brutality and ugliness wrapped in a pretty garment and packaged to us on television with pretty graphics.

The NFL is really the 1972 Miami Dolphins, one of the toughest teams the league has ever seen. Now, many of them are literally losing their minds. It's sad and gut-wrenching. Former linebacker Nick Buoniconti was one of the toughest players of his generation. He later became one of the first ex-players to truly make it big in the media after his career. Now, he can barely put on a shirt by himself.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 14:  Head Coach Don Shula and Nick Bouniconti #85 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates defeating the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California, January 14, 1973. The Dolphin
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

He isn't alone in his struggles. The Miami Herald reported this week that at least eight members of that team either suffered, or are suffering, from brain injuries related to football.

That isn't because they are weak, but because they were tough, and endured the physical toll of playing week after week, year after year. 

That's football, and that's why players say the idea of Brady playing well into his 40s is a joke.

And though stopping Brady from trying may not have been her goal, Bundchen's honesty may be just what he needs to hear, what the league needs to hear. Her comments have gained such traction that the godfather of CTE discovery, Dr. Bennet Omalu, told TMZ Sports that Bundchen is a hero.  

"I believe it is something angelic to speak up," Omalu told the website. "She's an angel. An angel of truth and an angel of love. The truth will always prevail. We should not be afraid of the truth because of the inconvenience of the truth. But when we embrace the truth, just like Gisele has done, the truth is empowering, is enlightening and is vindicating. So, [Gisele] is my hero."

Bundchen also has done something else. She's shown that no one leaves the game unscathed, that playing football in the modern era until 45 is little more than fantasy.

It will never happen. The violence of the sport won't allow it. No matter who you are.

Even if you're Tom Brady.

   

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @mikefreemanNFL.