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Buccaneers QB Tom Brady heading into what's expected to be his final season in NFL

Tom Brady said it plainly and clearly, in a way that made every middle-aged dad nod: "I got a lot of s--- going on."

It was not a normal training camp, to be sure. The Buccaneers quarterback took a controversial and mysterious 11-day hiatus, as tabloids openly discussed his private family life. While Tampa Bay prepares to take the field Sunday night against the Cowboys in a highly anticipated game, here is where it all stands with Brady.

The 45-year-old is heading into what is expected to be his final season in the NFL, according to sources with knowledge of his thinking. He has never said it publicly, but multiple parties involved acknowledge that after last year's retirement then unretirement, the end is coming. That is the understanding, that this is the final year.

As for his 11-day hiatus, sources say Brady spent the bulk of it in the Bahamas at a private resort with his family, making good on a mid-retirement promise he made to his wife, Gisele, that he would vacation with them in August for the first time in two decades. During his time off, the Bucs left him alone to be with his family, fully respectful. There were no football conversations, the source said, no playbooks mailed to the Bahamas. It was his personal situation, and they allowed him to live.

He returned to go 6-of-8 for 44 yards (with one wide receiver drop) in the preseason game against the Colts.

Brady was asked during his news conference this week if this will be his final season.

"I think we're all getting one day older at a time," Brady said. "We're all not sure whether we're going to be here next year or not, that's the reality for every player, every coach, every parent. You just never know. We should all take advantage of the opportunity that we have."

For only the second time in his career, Brady is not under contract for the ensuing season. The only other time Brady entered a season without being under contract for the next season was in 2019, his final year in New England before leaving for Tampa in free agency.

While one source close to Brady insisted that doesn't matter -- a contract would be worked out if he returned -- it is noteworthy. Brady will earn $30 million this year, including a $15 million payment from the signing bonus of his 2021 contract. He received a $13.88 million roster bonus the day after he signed a revised deal in April and will make $1.12 million in base salary. But no new years were added to his current contract.

Asked if Brady would play for another team after this year, because he's a free agent, a source close to the QB emphasized greatly the affection Brady has for the Bucs, from the players to the coaches to the front office to the ownership.

Earlier in the summer, the Dolphins were found guilty of tampering for their dealings with Brady, with "numerous and detailed discussions" with Brady through vice chairman Bruce Beal. Brady was not disciplined.

Part of that impermissible contact came while Brady was under contract with the Bucs, whose head coach at the time, Bruce Arians, said at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine they wouldn’t trade Brady for fewer than five first-round picks.

As for Brady retiring, one source close to him cautioned that emotions are fluid and decisions could always come down to who is holding a trophy at the end of the season or feelings based around whether or not that person is Brady. That is conceivable.

More likely, however, is that Brady will finish this year, then head to FOX Sports, where a 10-year, $375 million announcer/ambassador deal awaits.

Brady turned 45 on Aug. 3, which is also significant. Brady has always said publicly and privately that he would play until 45. Last year, his brief retirement at age 44 left one head-scratching tidbit unanswered, which is why he pulled the plug a year earlier than planned.

After this year, it would be right on schedule.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter@RapSheet.