Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are facing the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday

By Jason Duaine Hahn
January 11, 2019 03:15 PM

While Tom Brady might love competing in front of tens of thousands of people on the field, he’s very careful about who he lets into his circle when he’s off of it.

Brady, 41, who is gearing up to face the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday for a chance to go to the AFC Championship Game, sat down with the “Religion of Sports” podcast recently to talk about what playing in the NFL means to him as he enters an age when many athletes consider retirement.

“When I’m out on the field in front of 70,000 people, I can kind of do what I want,” Brady — who shares two children with model Gisele Bündchen — said, according to Boston.com.

While the New England Patriots earned a promising 11-5 record this season, there has been much discussion around how long Brady — who many football fans consider the greatest quarterback of all-time — will be able to perform at an elite level. Brady would be the first to admit he plays differently now than he did in his early 20s, but feels the game is too important for him to step away just yet.

Larry Busacca/Getty

“I can really be who I am,” Brady said on the radio show of continuing to play football. “I get to be me with my raw emotion and energy. If I want to scream at somebody, I can scream at somebody. But you don’t really see me do that any place else.”

But when he is off the field, Brady told the hosts he closes himself off from strangers. It’s his way of protecting himself, he said, according to Boston.com.

“In so many ways I can be myself out there on the field that, in a lot of ways, I can’t be myself if I don’t feel protected,” the five-time Super Bowl champion explained. “If I’m around people I don’t know, and I know that a conversation is going to go outside the people that I’m having a conversation with, I don’t say much.”

“I think that my way of protecting myself from that is to isolate myself, because I’m protective of who I am, and I don’t trust a lot of people,” he continued, according to the outlet. “So that’s probably why I love football so much, because it allows me to be who I am in a very authentic way that is hard for me to be when I walk off the field.”

RELATED: Tom Brady Picks ‘Boston Legend’ Mark Wahlberg to Play Him in a Movie: He’s a ‘Grind It Out’ Guy

While the questions around how long Brady has left before retirement are bound to continue into the offseason — especially considering how he performs against the Chargers on Sunday — the former NFL MVP remains focused on everything he still wants to do before the time comes to hang up his jersey.

“I mean I think the last eight years of my career were better than the first 10,” he explained on “Religion of Sports,” according to Boston.com. “So I should just prolong it, and that’s what I’m trying to do. It’d be like getting close to the top of the mountain and be like, ‘That’s it, I’m good.’ And it’s like no, you worked really hard to get to this point, why not finish it off?”

Last year, Brady told PEOPLE that he has the full backing of his wife to continue his career.

“I love playing and I want to keep going ’cause I think there’s more to achieve and I still think I can play at a really high level,” he told PEOPLE. “As long as I’m willing to make the commitment, my family gets the time they need, [then] hopefully I can keep playing the game I love.”

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