Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin believes it is only fair to re-open NFL facilities at the same time amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The NFL has laid out a plan for all 32 teams to have their facilities prepared to be re-opened by Friday, May 15.

Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all teams on Wednesday, informing them of the protocols put in place to have their complexes ready to open, and will then advise them as to when they can formally allow personnel to enter.

The first phase allows 50 per cent of non-player personnel permitted in the facility and only players continuing their rehab and therapy that they began before facilities were ordered to close in late March. The second phase involves increasing the number of staff members and players.

Tomlin spoke to reporters via a conference call on Saturday and said: "I prescribe to the approach of competitive fairness within our game, and that is everybody gets an opportunity.

"Our game is extremely competitive. It's one of the things that make football at this level so attractive to our fans.

"I'm committed to preserving and protecting that, and so all teams getting an opportunity to start on the same footing is a core element of that."

Tomlin added: "There's a couple of things that we're committed to adhering to, and that's the global approach of the National Football League in regards to football ops and how important competitive fairness is in our game.

"We all got to get started on the same footing in that regard. Then, also, respecting our local government and the guidelines they prescribe individually in terms of workplace safety.

"Those are the two key components for us. We're in a wait-and-see mindset, and we'll be ready to go when both boxes are checked."

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin expects quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to be fit for his team's 2020 NFL opener.

Roethlisberger, 38, underwent surgery on his right elbow in September last year, playing just two games during the 2019 season.

But the two-time Super Bowl champion is making progress and Tomlin feels the star QB will be ready to go when the new campaign begins.

"As we sit here today, we're extremely confident in his readiness. We're enjoying the process that he's going through right now," Tomlin told NFL Network on Thursday.

"Obviously he's not without his angst, the guy's coming off of a season-ending injury and surgery, but we like where we are.

"He's throwing on the rehab schedule, it's going well and we fully anticipate him being ready to go for that opener."

The NFL schedule was released on Thursday, with the Steelers beginning their season against the New York Giants on September 14.

"I've been at it a while. I haven't seen a schedule that I didn't like, particularly this time of year," Tomlin said.

"We're all football lovers and we miss competing so it's an exciting day when the schedule comes out."

The Pittsburgh Steelers exercised TJ Watt’s fifth-year option on Tuesday, an expected move after the outside linebacker emerged as one of the best defensive players in the NFL.

Following a breakthrough 2018 season in which he racked up 13 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and 21 quarterback hits to earn his first of two straight trips to the Pro Bowl, the 25-year-old Watt was even better last season.

The 30th overall pick of the 2017 draft, Watt ranked in the top five in the NFL across a host of categories in the 2019 campaign, including sacks, where he tied for fourth with 14.5, and forced fumbles, tying for first with eight. He tied for second in fumble recoveries with four, and was third for quarterback hits with 36.

Now he is staying with the team through the 2021 season, the Steelers announced.

Watt was the first player to rank in the top five in those four categories since his brother, Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt in 2014 – the year he earned his second AP Defensive Player of the Year Award.

TJ Watt, who was named a first-team All Pro in 2019, was a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year Award last season.

"It's just working hard and getting more and more experience," Watt said in a statement.

"This was my second year playing the left side. I am just growing and learning how I can approach the game better, find out what works better for me as far as film study, practice and preparation.

"Hopefully I can keep taking those jumps as I progress in my career."

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree has signed his franchise tender, the team announced on Thursday. 

The Steelers placed the franchise tag on Dupree on March 16 after the former first-round pick had a career season in 2019.  

Dupree set personal bests in sacks (11.5), total tackles (68), tackles for loss (16), quarterback hits (17), forced fumbles (4) and fumble recoveries (2). 

He tied for fifth in the NFL in both tackles for loss and forced fumbles, and was tied for ninth in the league in sacks. 

"I took my game to a different level," Dupree said. 

Dupree has 31.5 sacks in 70 games since the Steelers selected him with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Twenty years ago the New England Patriots did what was tantamount to robbery.

With the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, New England selected Tom Brady, quarterback from the University of Michigan.

The rest is history. Six Super Bowl wins, nine AFC titles. It was a draft pick that altered the entire NFL, and it was all the more remarkable because sixth-round selections usually face a fight just to make the team.

However, sometimes players, like Brady, slip through the cracks in the draft process and a late-round diamond can be unearthed.

On the 20th anniversary of Brady's selection, we look at some of the best late-round picks in recent memory.

 

JULIAN EDELMAN - SEVENTH ROUND, 2009

Turns out the Patriots are good at this drafting lark and Brady is not the only late-round gem they have found.

Bill Belichick went to Kent State in 2009 to work out their quarterback Edelman, who had never run routes or caught passes before.

Edelman's pure potential intrigued Belichick, though, and he proved a shrewd seventh-round selection, initially as a punt returner and later as a wideout.

Brady's favourite target in his last few years in New England was instrumental in their Super Bowl LIII win, being named the game's MVP after making 10 catches for 141 yards.

 

KAM CHANCELLOR - FIFTH ROUND, 2010

Chancellor changed positions three times in four years in college and the Seattle Seahawks had already drafted one safety in first-rounder Earl Thomas when they selected the bruising Virginia Tech defensive back in the fifth.

The two would go on to form the heart of the 'Legion of Boom', one of the greatest defensive backfields of all time and a key reason why Seattle made two Super Bowls in back-to-back seasons.

Chancellor only spent eight seasons in the league and retired at 30 due to a neck injury, but the tone-setter of that great Seattle D was voted to four Pro Bowls.

 

ANTONIO BROWN - SIXTH ROUND, 2010

Brown wears the number 84 because 8 x 4 = 32 and 32 teams ignored him until the Pittsburgh Steelers grabbed the former Central Michigan receiver with the 195th overall pick a decade ago.

The pre-draft reports suggested he was slow, lacked size, had character concerns and didn't play elite competition in college.

Brown has since amassed 11,263 receiving yards and 75 touchdowns and was arguably the NFL's best receiver of the 2010s.

He remains out of the league today, though, with those character concerns rearing their head and ending short spells with the Oakland Raiders and Patriots last season.

 

RICHARD SHERMAN - FIFTH ROUND, 2011

The year after selecting Thomas and Chancellor, Seattle drafted K.J. Wright in the fourth round and cornerback Sherman in the fifth in another impressive haul.

Sherman, who started life at Stanford as a wide receiver before converting to corner, was the 34th defensive back selected in 2011, which made him "livid" and provided a sizeable chip for his shoulder.

Since then? Just the five Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pros, one Super Bowl ring (and another two appearances) and a spot on the NFL's All-Decade team of the 2010s.

 

GEORGE KITTLE - FIFTH ROUND, 2017

Do-it-all tight ends who are mismatch nightmares have been en vogue ever since Rob Gronkowski took the NFL by storm, and yet everyone passed on Kittle until the San Francisco 49ers wrote down his name for the 146th pick.

In his best season at Iowa, Kittle had 314 receiving yards. Last year he had his second straight 1,000-yard receiving season in the NFL having broken the record for tight ends with 1,377 yards in 2018.

Thanks to Kittle, Iowa tight ends are being taken more seriously too as T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant were both drafted in the first round last year.

Ben Roethlisberger has "no doubts" he can return to his peak form for the Pittsburgh Steelers after undergoing elbow surgery, as he feels better than he has done in years.

The 38-year-old had three flexor tendons reattached in September after being restricted to two appearances in the 2019 NFL season.

A thriving defense was held back by patchy quarterback play from Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges as the Steelers went 8-8 without two-time Super Bowl winner Roethlisberger.

The starting quarterback's health is therefore a huge priority going into 2020, but he has no concerns over his recovery.

"I have no doubts I’m going to be able to come back and play well - none," Roethlisberger said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I have complete confidence in that.

"I'm throwing without pain for the first time in years. Some games, I would have a little pain. Some games, I would have a lot of pain. But in the New England game and the Seattle game, it got to be too much. 

"To be able to throw without pain now? That feels nice. That's a nice feeling. I know I'm not getting any younger, but I feel younger because I don't have any pain.

"There’s pressure, but I put more pressure on myself. As much as the fans and my team-mates want me out there, I want to be out there even more. 

"I saw last season what this team is capable of doing. I'm pushing myself to come back better than ever."

Roethlisberger started throwing again last month and is gradually building up his intensity.

He also laughed off concerns over his physique after recent appearances in a Steelers team video and at a college basketball game prompted some interesting critiques.

"I've heard people say I'm fat, and that just blows my mind," he said.

"I'm lighter and in better shape than I was in either of the past two years. 

"I haven't stopped working out. I normally don't work out in the offseason, but I've been doing everything five days a week with my trainer. Cardio twice a week. Legs twice a week. Upper body twice a week.

"I guess it's my beard that makes me look heavier. I must have five pounds in that, I know. But I'm not overweight."

The Pittsburgh Steelers placed Ryan Shazier on the reserve/retired list, the NFL franchise announced on Tuesday.

Shazier has spent the last two seasons on the reserve/physically unable to perform list after suffering a severe spinal injury in December 2017.

The 27-year-old linebacker and two-time Pro Bowler, however, will remain part of the Steelers organisation.

"Ryan's placement on the Reserve/Retired List serves as a matter of protocol to ensure his continued inclusion within our organisation moving forward in his professional career," said Steelers general manager/vice-president Kevin Colbert.

"Number one, Ryan continues to be a remarkable person and just an inspiration for the whole organisation, and really for the whole community, in terms of his perseverance, overcoming what he overcame," added Steelers president Art Rooney II.

"Ryan is going to make some decisions about his future at this point. I don't want to speak for him, but I think from our side of it we would be happy to have him continue to be a part of the Steelers organisation in some capacity. We would love to be able to do that. Ryan is at the point where he's making those kinds of decisions about his future.

"He has been told by a number of people in the organization [about us wanting him to continue to be a part of us], including me."

 

Tom Brady's departure from the New England Patriots might have been the big NFL news on Tuesday, but there was plenty of activity elsewhere in free agency.

As the world waits on Brady's next move after 20 seasons as a Patriot, the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers reportedly found new starting quarterbacks in Philip Rivers and Teddy Bridgewater respectively.

Here, we wrap up some of the other big moves that were reported to have been agreed ahead of the new league year beginning on Wednesday.

 

Tight end Jason Witten returned to the Dallas Cowboys last season after a campaign in the broadcast booth and he will be back in 2020, but with the Las Vegas Raiders. Witten, Maliek Collins and safety Jeff Heath are all thought to be making the move from Dallas to Sin City. Linebacker Cory Littleton has also agreed terms with the Raiders, according to reports.

Vic Beasley, who led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2015, is said to be heading to the Tennessee Titans. The edge rusher has only had 18 sacks combined over the previous three seasons.

Having had 11.5 sacks in 2019 with the Cowboys, Robert Quinn's agents told NFL.com he is bound for the Chicago Bears on a five-year, $70million deal. Chicago have confirmed Leonard Floyd has been released.

Malcolm Jenkins, a key part of the Philadelphia Eagles when they won Super Bowl LII, has been released, though the team confirmed two other members of their defensive backfield, Jalen Mills and Rodney McLeod, had signed new deals.

Former Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Chargers, revealed he has been "reunited with my guy" Ron Rivera at the Washington Redskins. 

The Chargers were busy making an acquisition themselves, bringing in offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga on a three-year, $30m deal, according to NFL.com. Who he will be protecting remains to be seen, though, with the Chargers considered one of the favourites in the Brady sweepstakes.

A day after handing receiver A.J. Green the franchise tag, the Cincinnati Bengals reportedly made two signings on the other side of the ball in nose tackle D.J. Reader and cornerback Trae Waynes.

The Jacksonville Jaguars bolstered their front seven by signing ex-Cleveland Browns linebacker Joe Schobert, while cornerback Darqueze Dennard is thought to be joining too.

Elsewhere, the San Francisco 49ers, the NFC representatives in last month's Super Bowl, confirmed they had tendered one-year contracts to restricted free agents Kendrick Bourne and Matt Breida.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have used their franchise tag on Shaquil Barrett, one of a number of defensive stars to receive the designation on Monday.

After signing a one-year deal with the Bucs during the previous offseason, Barrett shone in Tampa's new 3-4 system, recording a league-high 19.5 sacks in 2019.

The linebacker - whose tally of 37 quarterback hits was also tied for the most in the NFL - has received the non-exclusive tag, meaning he can still negotiate with other teams during free agency.

However, Tampa Bay has the option to match any contract offer the player receives. If they choose not to, they will then receive two first-round picks from the team who signs Barrett.

Bud Dupree has also been tagged by the Pittsburgh Steelers, meaning the pass rusher is due to earn an estimated $16.12million for the 2020 season.

Dupree posted 11.5 sacks in 2019, as well as four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Having only joined via a trade from the New York Jets midway through the season, the New York Giants allocated their tag to defensive lineman Leonard Williams. 

The Kansas City Chiefs have used their franchise tag to retain the services of Chris Jones, who has led the team in sacks for the previous two campaigns.

Meanwhile, the New England Patriots tagged left guard Joe Thuney, as have the Minnesota Vikings with safety Anthony Harris.

Teams can still negotiate new long-term contracts with those players who have received their franchise tags.

Mason Rudolph said Myles Garrett's claim the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback racially abused him prior to their on-field brawl in November is a "bold-faced lie" and "1,000 per cent false".

Garrett was suspended indefinitely by the NFL after he ripped off Rudolph's helmet and hit him over the head with it in the closing stages of the Cleveland Browns' Week 10 victory over the Steelers.

Although Garrett initially apologised for his actions, he subsequently accused Rudolph of using a racial slur, a claim that was vehemently denied by the Steelers signal-caller at the time.

Following an investigation, an NFL spokesperson said the league found "no evidence" to support Garrett's allegation.

After being reinstated by the Browns this week, Garrett again said Rudolph racially abused him, telling ESPN: "He called me the N-word. He called me a 'stupid N-word'."

Responding to a clip of the interview on Twitter, Rudolph said: "1,000 per cent false. Bold-faced lie. I did not, have not, and would not utter a racial slur.

"This is a disgusting and reckless attempt to assassinate my character."

Rudolph's attorney and agent Timothy M. Younger suggested legal action could be taken against Garrett.

A statement posted by Younger read: "We waited to hear the entire interview. Garrett, after originally apologising to Mason Rudolph, has made the ill-advised choice of publishing the belated and false accusation that Mr. Rudolph uttered a racial slur on the night in question.

"Not that Mr. Garrett claims that Mr. Rudolph uttered the slur simultaneously with being taken down, and before Mr. Garrett committed a battery by striking Mr. Rudolph on the head with a 6 lb helmet.

"His claim is ludicrous. The obviously was not the first time Mr. Rudolph had been sacked by an African American player. Mr. Garrett maliciously uses this false allegation to cox sympathy, hoping to be excused for what clearly is inexcusable behaviour.

"Despite other players and the referee being in the immediate vicinity, there are zero corroborating witnesses – as confirmed by the NFL.

"Although Mr. Rudolph had hoped to move forward, it is Mr. Garrett who has decided to utter this defamatory statement – in California. He is now exposed to legal liability."

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said: "I support Mason Rudolph not only because I know him, but also because I was on that field immediately following the altercation with Myles Garrett, and subsequently after the game.

"I interacted with a lot of people in the Cleveland Browns organisation – players and coaches. If Mason said what Myles claimed, it would have come out during the many interactions I had with those in the Browns organisation.

"In my conversations, I had a lot of expressions of sorrow for what transpired. I received no indication of anything racial or anything of that nature in those interactions."

Reinstated Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett has once again alleged he was racially abused by Mason Rudolph prior to their brawl in November.

Garrett was suspended indefinitely by the NFL after he ripped off Rudolph's helmet and hit the quarterback over the head with it in the closing stages of the Browns' Week 10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Although Garrett initially apologised for his actions, he subsequently accused Rudolph of using a racial slur, a claim that was vehemently denied by the Steelers signal-caller.

Following an investigation, an NFL spokesperson said the league found "no evidence" to support Garrett's allegation.

However, after being reinstated earlier this week, Garrett has again said that Rudolph racially abused him, telling ESPN's Outside The Lines: "He called me the N-word. He called me a 'stupid N-word'."

Garrett said he did not want his initial accusation to be made public, adding: "I didn't want to try to use it as justification for my actions because there's nothing to justify. Like, there's nothing I can say or do to justify what I did on that day. I'm not saying I didn't do anything wrong.

"I know what happened, I know what I heard. People say things when they're heated, or full of emotion. I leave it on the field. He said it, but that was three months ago, four months ago now. I leave that behind.

"I know something was said. I don't want to make it a racial thing, honestly. It's over with for me and I'm pretty sure it's over with for Mason so we just want to move past it and keep on playing football."

Following Garrett's initial allegation, Rudolph's attorney, Timothy M. Younger, told ESPN: "This false allegation was never asserted by Garrett in the aftermath of the game, never suggested prior to the hearing, and conspicuously absent in the apology published by the Browns and adopted by Garrett.

"The malicious use of this wild and unfounded allegation is an assault on Mason's integrity which is far worse than the physical assault. This is reckless and shameful. We will have no further comment."

Rudolph himself said Garrett's claim was "totally untrue".

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert does not believe Ben Roethlisberger "is at the end of the road" amid doubts over the quarterback following an elbow injury.

Roethlisberger underwent surgery on his right throwing elbow in September and was expected to make a full recovery and return for the 2020 NFL season, though question marks remain.

There has been speculation the 37-year-old – who turns 38 next month – and two-time Super Bowl champion could retire but Colbert said Roethlisberger is on track in his rehab.

"All signs are good at this point, and where that goes, we're hopeful he can make a complete recovery," Colbert said. "As of right now, he's on schedule for that. Where it goes from here remains to be seen.

"He had an injury to his right arm, but other than that, he's relatively healthy. We're not minimising the right arm injury to a right arm quarterback, but we don't think he's at the end of the road."

Colbert added: "Optimistically, [Roethlisberger] is on schedule to return and we hope to return to maybe even a better Ben Roethlisberger than he was previous to the injury.

"In the meantime, we understand who our backups are. We're comfortable with who those backups are. I thought they did a great, representable job in 2019 under the circumstances."

Steelers veteran Roethlisberger suffered the injury in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks.

Roethlisberger, who hurt his right elbow in a 28-26 loss to the Seahawks, was seen shaking his throwing arm at various points during the first half of the team's home opener and even left for the locker room before returning to the sideline to play through the injury.

In April, the six-time Pro Bowler signed a two-year contract extension with the Steelers through the 2021 season.

Since being drafted by the Steelers in 2004, Roethlisberger has played 218 games, and completed 4,651 passes for 56,545 yards and 363 touchdowns.

The future is certainly bright for the Kansas City Chiefs after they were crowned Super Bowl LIV champions on Sunday.

A 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium earned veteran Andy Reid his first ring as head coach, while quarterback Patrick Mahomes became the youngest player to be named both MVP - an honour he won a year ago - and Super Bowl MVP in NFL history.

With Mahomes just 24, the Chiefs will have aspirations of dominating for the foreseeable future and replicating the two dynasties the New England Patriots and Tom Brady enjoyed with six Lombardi Trophies across two decades.

However, winning back-to-back Super Bowls is no mean feat - no team has done it since the Patriots 16 years ago - so we take a look at which teams could prevent Kansas City from winning it all again in Tampa Bay next February.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

The best team in the NFL's regular season fell at the first hurdle in the playoffs as the 14-2 Ravens were upset at home by the Tennessee Titans.

That was a deflating note to end on for quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was voted the NFL's MVP by unanimous vote 24 hours before Mahomes won his first ring.

Jackson is just 23, most of the Ravens' star players are expected to return and coordinators Greg Roman and Wink Martindale will likely be back alongside Coach of the Year John Harbaugh.

If Jackson is able to replicate or even exceed what he did in his first full year as the starter, the Ravens might be bound for Tampa next year.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Long live the kings? Don't count on it.

The 2019 season felt like the end of an era as Father Time looked he had finally caught up with 42-year-old quarterback Brady.

Yet those who have written off New England in the past have often ended up looking incredibly foolish.

The Patriots have 19 straight winning seasons, the best head coach in the game in Bill Belichick and had the NFL's number one defense in 2019. Brady's future remains uncertain but one final push for a Lombardi is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The nearly men of the past three seasons; Saints fans have been crushed by a trio of playoff defeats featuring walk-off plays.

New Orleans will believe they will be playing January football again after three straight seasons with double-digit wins.

Sean Payton remains one of the preeminent offensive minds, Michael Thomas broke the single-season record for receptions in 2019 and an underrated defense complements a free-scoring offense.

At 41, Drew Brees' career is coming to an end, but, presuming he decides to return next season, the Saints will surely be contending again.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The Steelers only went 8-8 in 2019 but San Francisco's transformation from 4-12 to 13-3 and a Super Bowl berth is evidence of how the NFL can quickly turn on its head.

What should give Steelers fans cause for optimism is that they won eight games without their starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger was still playing at an elite level prior to his 2019 season-ending injury, leading the league in passing yardage with a career high 5,129 yards in 2018.

Combine that with an impressive young defense and a head coach tried and tested in the postseason and you have the recipe for another Super Bowl run.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

A left-field suggestion, sure, but look at the significant strides both Mahomes and Jackson took in their second years in the league.

Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray believes he can make a similar leap in 2020 and, if he can, look out.

Arizona's offense under rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury hummed at times in going 5-10-1 in 2019 and the addition of more weapons in free agency would significantly aid Murray's development.

Their biggest problem, beyond fixing a porous defense, is finding a way to come out on top in a division that contains the NFC's last two Super Bowl representatives - the 49ers and Los Angeles Rams - as well as postseason regulars the Seattle Seahawks.

Antonio Brown has apologised to the NFL following a series of alleged off-field incidents as he played just one game in the league in 2019.

Wide receiver Brown has been without a team since he was cut by the New England Patriots after just 11 days in September amid allegations of sexual assault and rape, which he strenuously denies.

The seven-time Pro Bowler played just one game for the Patriots, who he joined from the Oakland Raiders after leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers in March last year.

An arrest warrant was issued for the 31-year-old last week on charges of burglary with battery and criminal mischief, with a judge freeing Brown from house arrest on Tuesday.

Brown posted an apology to anyone he "offended or disrespected" at the Hollywood Police Department on his official Instagram page on Friday, and he has now announced regret at his recent behaviour.

"I think I owe the whole NFL an apology for my past behaviour," Brown said in an interview with ESPN. "I think I could have done a lot of things better."

On Wednesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell declared that it was the league's aim to help Brown.

"I was pleased to hear that, after 140 days, there was some positivity about me, because as of late, I've just been the cancer of the NFL," Brown said when asked what he thought of Goodell's comments.

He added of Goodell's commitment to provide help: "I'll believe it when I see it."

It will be the story that dominates the NFL offseason: What's next for Tom Brady?

The 42-year-old's quest to win an unprecedented seventh ring at Super Bowl LIV in Miami next month was dashed by the Tennessee Titans, who beat Brady's New England Patriots 20-13 in the Wild Card Round on Saturday.

With Brady currently set to be a free agent in 2020, there remains a possibility that he could begin his 21st NFL season away from Bill Belichick's team.

Here we assess Brady's potential options for next season.

 

RETIREMENT

Speaking after the defeat to the Titans, Brady had said retirement was "pretty unlikely... Hopefully unlikely".

The plyometrics fanatic has redefined what was considered possible for forty-somethings in the NFL, exulting the virtues of his 'TB12 Method' and speaking of his desire to play until he is 45.

But Father Time seems to be catching Brady, who threw just 24 touchdowns in the 2019 regular season, the fewest he has managed across a full campaign since he posted the same number in 2006.

Brady is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, a six-time Super Bowl champion and widely regarded as the best quarterback ever; at this point, carrying on may only harm his legacy. But will he want to bow out with a home playoff loss...?

STAY IN NEW ENGLAND

The most likely option is that Brady returns to Foxborough next season.

His slightly disappointing numbers this season come with caveats, most notably the lack of weapons in the passing game, the less-than-stellar offensive line and a ground attack that's remained, well, grounded.

New England drafted Jarrett Stidham last year but he was benched on his debut after throwing a pick-six from his third attempt. Asking him to step in for Brady at this stage appears too much.

Perhaps the Patriots would be better off surrounding Brady with a better cast and making one final Super Bowl push. Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown may just be up for that too.

JOIN THE INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

If Brady is to go elsewhere in 2020, it will almost certainly be to a Super Bowl contender.

The Colts can be just that. They went 10-6 in 2018 and won a playoff game and, despite losing Andrew Luck to retirement on the eve of the 2019 season, they still went 7-9 this term and would probably have made the playoffs had they had better play at the quarterback position.

Indianapolis have no long-term commitment to current starter Jacoby Brissett, who was one of Brady's former backups in New England.

The Colts have a fine offensive line, a roster stacked with young stars ready to make the next step and an offensive-minded head coach. Brady could do a lot worse, but would Indy - who are also projected to have the most cap space for 2020 - be keen given the current regime's desire to build through the draft?

JOIN THE LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Another AFC team with a possible opening at the game's most important position.

The Chargers, like the Colts, made the playoffs in 2018 and won a game, yet they were hugely disappointing when going 5-11 in 2019.

Philip Rivers might be four years younger than Brady but he looked far older this season and the Chargers can easily cut ties and look elsewhere in 2020.

Los Angeles may just be an appealing destination to California-born Brady; after all, it was to NBA veteran LeBron James.

JOIN THE LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden likes to work with veteran quarterbacks - see Rich Gannon and Brad Johnson - and 'Chucky' has offered no guarantees over current incumbent Derek Carr's future.

What better way to mark the move to a new stadium in a new city by rolling the dice and bringing Brady to Sin City?

The Raiders have a stout offensive line, a brilliant young running back in Josh Jacobs and enough cap space to sign a player of Brady's calibre.

One thing's for sure, if Brady ends up in Las Vegas, former Raider Brown will not be following him after the way he burned his bridges...

JOIN THE CAROLINA PANTHERS

A left-field suggestion, perhaps, but the Panthers have one thing that could work in their favour: A head coaching vacancy.

New England's current offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, is reportedly set to interview with the Panthers next week and both he and Brady may like the idea of joining forces and proving their worth away from Belichick.

The Cleveland Browns and New York Giants are thought to be keen on McDaniels too, though they both have young signal callers.

If Brady wants a 'home away from home' and McDaniels lands in Carolina, the Panthers might just fit the bill. 

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