NFL legend Michael Irvin explains why Tom Brady's quick return wasn't so surprising

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Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin wasn’t so sure when he first heard Tom Brady was going to retire from the NFL after 22 seasons and seven Super Bowl rings. 

Irvin said ahead of the Super Bowl that when Brady alluded to the possibility of coming back after about a week he had a feeling the legendary quarterback may not be totally done with the sport.

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Former Dallas Cowboys receiver and Hall of Famer Michael Irvin is seen during the UFC 272 event on March 5, 2022, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Former Dallas Cowboys receiver and Hall of Famer Michael Irvin is seen during the UFC 272 event on March 5, 2022, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
(Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

The Dallas Cowboys legend explained to Fox News Digital in a recent interview what Brady may have been thinking as he took a little more than a month in between retirement and comeback announcements.

“I tell people all the time, you’re at the top of the mountain when you’re Tom Brady in the NFL. You’re at the top of the mountain. You’ve won seven (Super Bowls). You got more rings … you’re the boss where you go then you decide I think I’m gonna retire. I think I’m gonna retire. And you go home and you have this idea in your head. It’s just a figmentation (sic), your imagination of what retirement is,” Irvin said.

“And when you get home and you learn that you’re no longer the boss, but you’re being bossed around at home, telling you what to do, you’re like ‘Wait a minute. I just want to sit here and relax.’ ‘No, I need you to do this. Can you get this done?’ And then you say, ‘Woah. Wait a minute. Maybe this is not what I want to do right now.’”

Irvin, who recently became an investor in the education platform TradeZing, said most athletes retire when their skill has diminished to a point where they can’t beat the person in front of them.

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Tom Brady of the Buccaneers watches from the sidelines during the New Orleans Saints game at Raymond James Stadium on Dec. 19, 2021, in Tampa, Florida. 

Tom Brady of the Buccaneers watches from the sidelines during the New Orleans Saints game at Raymond James Stadium on Dec. 19, 2021, in Tampa, Florida. 
(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

“And rarely do you see it Tom Brady style. Most of us have to deal with it because we retired because our skill diminished. Tom’s skill is still there. Rarely do you get to retire because loss of will. Two things in the NFL: there’s a skill and a will. Because you’re playing against man-to-man and we can’t sit on computers and climb the ladder in our job. You actually have to go beat another man. So that’s why skill is important. But also will because you got to match his hunger. You got to match his intensity. You can be as skillful as you want to be but if you ain’t as hungry as the dude playing you, he’s gonna whup your butt,” he said.

“Tom Brady still has great skill but he’s diminished in his will to keep going through the process and he said maybe it’s time to take a break and go home. And he gets home, and he’s noticed he’s even more diminished in his will because he’s been in total control, the wife is running the house, and now he says I’m back on the football field. I love it that he’s back on the football field because I think he brings so much for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFL and it gives us great things to talk about.”

Irvin spent his entire career with the Cowboys, from 1988 to 1999, winning three Super Bowls, getting selected to the Pro Bowl fives times and eventually being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Former Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Michael Irvin reacts to fans on the sideline before their game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Former Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Michael Irvin reacts to fans on the sideline before their game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
(Jason Getz-USA Today Sports)

He retired at age 33 after suffering a serious cervical spinal cord injury and was later diagnosed with stenosis. He said he was trying to get cleared by doctors to go back onto the field after spending a weekend at home, but all but one were saying he was finished with football.

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He left the Cowboys with 750 receptions for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns.

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