Tom Brady claims he foresaw his exit from the New England Patriots long before he announced it last month.
The quarterback spoke to radio host Howard Stern on Thursday (NZ time), in an interview that touched on his emotional departure, his new life in Tampa Bay and friendship with President Donald Trump.
"I probably knew, before the start of last season, that it was my last year," Brady told the Sirius XM radio show. "Our time was coming to an end."
Brady announced he was leaving the Patriots in free agency after two decades with a team with which he broke many NFL records, including most victories and appearances in the Super Bowl, and most playoff wins, marking a profound end to a storied NFL partnership.
Brady said he told team owner Robert Kraft in person that he would not rejoin the team and called head coach Bill Belichick immediately after.
"I was crying," said Brady. "I'm a very emotional person.
"I have a deep caring for the people I've worked with."
The 42-year-old, who since signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said he harboured no ill will toward his former team and pushed aside the common debate over who was the true star of the Patriots' success - Belichick or himself.
"I can't do his job and he can't do mine," said Brady.
Like millions of Americans, the four-time Super Bowl MVP is living in relative quarantine, with his wife and children, amid the coronavirus outbreak that upended the professional sports calendar and brought life to a grinding halt across the globe.
Unlike millions of Americans, Brady said he was currently staying at a sprawling Tampa Bay mansion that he rented from Baseball Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, adjusting to a radically different environment from New England, which he called home for two decades.
A long-time friend of Trump, Brady faced controversy, when one of the now-president's "Make America Great Again" hats appeared in his locker in 2015, but said he turned down an invitation to speak at the 2016 Republican National Convention and has since avoided the political sphere.
"I got brought into a lot of those things, because it was so polarising," said Brady.
"It was uncomfortable for me because you can't undo things - and not that I would undo a friendship - but the political support is totally different than the support of a friend."