FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The greatness of Tom Brady’s NFL career can’t be exaggerated.
He took the New England Patriots to the upper echelon of the league during his 20-year run with the team, filling the franchise’s trophy case with six Lombardi trophies while cementing his own status as possibly the game’s all-time greatest player.
He remained a beloved son in New England even after he departed for Tampa Bay following the 2019 season, promptly won his seventh ring with the Buccaneers and then returned the following year to defeat his former team.
But Brady’s failure to include even a single mention of the Patriots or their fans in his lengthy retirement announcement on Tuesday was met with a chilly reception that’s left many perplexed about one of the region’s most beloved sports figures.
From social media reaction to Boston’s always-active sports radio, it gave Patriots diehards yet another thing to debate about the surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer even as he bid football adieu.
While Brady’s announcement quickly rose to the No. 2 trending topic on Twitter, “New England” was also in the top 5 nationally, boosted by a steady stream of comments from fans about the perceived slight.
Reactions covered every extreme, from those who were outraged by the seeming snub to others who found no fault with it at all.
“Yikes not a word about the Patriots? Thanks anyways and enjoy your family time,” one fan wrote.
Boston’s WEEI sports radio, which Brady appeared on weekly during his Patriots tenure, became a pseudo therapy line for Patriots Nation as it tried to reconcile the omission.
“Brady either hates Pats fans or just thinks that little about them,” WEEI personality Rich Keefe wrote on Twitter.
Fellow WEEI host Lou Merloni offered a similar sentiment.
“Tom didn’t mention Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, the Patriots organization, Patriot fans or his time in New England. Is that weird?”
Still, others took the opportunity to congratulate the quarterback for everything he accomplished during his two-decade run with the team.
“Thanks for the memories Tom. Thank you for all you’ve given to My patriots,” one fan wrote underneath Brady’s announcement on Twitter. “Thank you for your dedication and love of the game.”
Brady’s official confirmation that he was hanging up his cleats had been anticipated since media reports over the weekend.
Members of Brady’s camp initially pushed back against the story, followed by Brady himself, who said Monday that he had yet to make a final decision.
That changed Tuesday when he made it official with Twitter and Instagram posts topped with a picture of him in a Buccaneers uniform, followed by an 18-paragraph statement in which he explained his decision to “leave the field of play to the next generation.” He went on to thank the city of Tampa, his Bucs teammates, the team’s owners, coach Bruce Arians, general manager Jason Licht and “every single Bucs staffer and employee.”
He even gave specific shoutouts to his family, personal health guru Alex Guerrero and agents Don Yee and Steve Dubin.
But he said not a word about the franchise that gave him his NFL shot by selecting him in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft.
About three hours after Brady’s announcement, he finally mentioned New England, tweeting “Thank You Patriots Nation I’m beyond grateful. Love you all” in response to a statement from Kraft.
Kraft’s statement said: “Words cannot describe the feelings I have for Tom Brady, nor adequately express the gratitude my family, the New England Patriots and our fans have for Tom for all he did during his career.”
Brady did previously gush about his time with the Patriots in March 2020 shortly after he decided to leave the Patriots in free agency to join the Buccaneers.
In that extensive electronic missive, Brady declared himself “Forever A Patriot” while thanking coach Bill Belichick, Kraft and his teammates “for the past twenty years of my life and the daily commitment to winning and creating a winning culture built on great values.”
“I am grateful for all that you have taught me — I have learned from everyone,” Brady wrote then.
His connection was underscored this season when Brady and the Bucs traveled to New England in October and outlasted the Patriots 19-17.
Brady received a warm reception from his former teammates and coaches and publicly embraced both Kraft and Belichick. He also had an extended private meeting with Belichick after the game.