7:35 AM PT — Bill Belichick just opened up about the breakup … and it’s pretty emotional.
“Tom was not just a player who bought into our program. He was one of its original creators,” the Pats head coach said in a statement. “Tom lived and perpetuated our culture. On a daily basis, he was a tone setter and a bar raiser. He won championships in three of his first four years on the field and in three of his final six seasons with us, while competing for championships in most every season in between. This is a credit to Tom’s consistency and what separates him. He didn’t just perform. He didn’t just win. He won championships over and over again.”
Bill added, “Sometimes in life, it takes some time to pass before truly appreciating something or someone but that has not been the case with Tom. He is a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time.”
Kraft also issued a statement, saying, “How do I possibly sum up the depth of my gratitude to Tom Brady for what he’s given us these past 20 years, or the sadness I feel knowing it’s ending? I love Tom like a son and I always will.”
“He has brought so much happiness to me personally and to all of our fans. I had hoped this day would never come, but rather that Tom would end his remarkable career in a Patriots uniform after yet another Super Bowl championship. Unfortunately, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement to allow that dream to become a reality. While sad today, the overwhelming feeling I have is appreciation for his countless contributions to our team and community.”
7:18 AM PT — Kraft spoke further about Brady’s departure with Pro Football Talk … saying, “I figured after 20 years, anybody who has brought us six Super Bowls, if he wants to be free, he has the right to do that.”
“I had hoped he would choose to stay, as a fan and an owner. But out of respect for the relationship we’ve built, I gave him his freedom.”
6:37 AM PT — Robert Kraft explained the breakup to ESPN … saying, “Tommy initiated contact last night & came over. We had a positive, respectful discussion.”
“It’s not the way I want it to end, but I want him to do what is in his best personal interest. After 20 years with us, he has earned that right. I love him like a son”
Tom Brady is making it official … he’s leaving the New England Patriots after 20 seasons (and 6 Super Bowl rings) and continuing his NFL career in another city.
TB12 posted a long thank you message to Patriots Nation on Tuesday morning explaining he will always cherish the memories … but it’s time to leave.
“I wanted to say thank you to all of the incredible fans and Patriots supporters. MA has been my home for twenty years,” Brady wrote.
“It has truly been the happiest two decades I could have envisioned in my life and I have nothing but love and gratitude for my time in New England.”
He continued, “The support has been overwhelming – I wish every player could experience it. My children were born and raised here and you always embraced this California kid as your own. I love your commitment and loyalty to your teams and winning for our city means more than you will ever know.”
“I can’t thank you enough for the support of our team. The packed training camps and sold out stadiums and mostly the victory parades. I have been so blessed to share them with you all. I tried to represent us always in the best and most honorable way, and I fought hard with my teammates to help bring victory and triumph even in the most dire situations.”
“You opened your heart to me, and I opened my heart to you. And Pats Nation will always be a part of me.”
“I don’t know what my football future holds but it is time for me to open a new stage for my life and career.”
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I will always love you and what we have shared – a lifetime full of fun memories.”
There’s more … Brady also shouted out Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and everyone else in the Pats front office — saying, “thank you 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. You all have allowed me to maximize my potential and that is all a player can ever hope for.”
“Everything we have accomplished brings me great joy and the lessons I have learned will carry on with me forever. I couldn’t be the man I am today without the relationships you have allowed me to build with you.”
“I have benefited from all you have given me. I cherished every opportunity I had to be a part of our team, and I love you all for that.”
So, what’s next for the 42-year-old quarterback?
He’s reportedly being pursued by the Tampa Bay Bucs, Las Vegas Raiders, L.A. Chargers and others.