Summertime in the NFL is always rife with speculation, mostly about who’s going to end up where on teams’ depth charts and how well top rookies will make the leap from college to the pros. But the 2022 preseason has given football fans a bigger mystery than they’re accustomed to: Where in the world is Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback and, arguably, greatest football player in history Tom Brady? And beyond that, is he actually taking a break from football to compete on The Masked Singer?
The seven-time Super Bowl champ made headlines on August 11 when the team announced the 45-year-old would be taking an excused absence until after they play the Tennessee Titans on August 20. The Bucs offered no further explanation for the break, other than saying Brady was missing time “to deal with some personal things.” When asked about it in the lead-up to the Titans game, Bucs head coach Todd Bowles offered no more insight last Thursday, other than to say he’s not concerned about the situation and “we’ll talk about it next week.” When pressed on the matter again the following day, he said, “Do I look worried? I’m not worried, so I don’t know why anyone else would be worried. I know exactly when Tom is coming back, and I’ve consistently said it would be sometime after the Tennessee Titans game.”
Despite that, many fans and some NFL writers wondered if there was, in fact, cause for concern. Was the QB having second thoughts about returning to the NFL? After all, Brady had announced he was stepping away from the game in February, only to change his mind the following month and say he was coming back. Maybe he was taking the break to evaluate his mental and physical conditions to see if he really wanted to go through the punishment of another full football season. But another theory, one that sounds outlandish but makes sense the more you dig into it, is that Brady is simply on leave to compete in the upcoming season of The Masked Singer. Reddit user CANNONFIRE laid it all out in an impressive post that has us believing it’s legit. Here’s why.
First off, Brady has been shedding his once ultraprivate persona for the past few years, notably by joining social media. (Both he and his supermodel wife, Gisele Bündchen, have been conspicuously quiet on both Twitter and Instagram since his August 3 birthday, though.) He has also branched out into the entertainment world with an authorized documentary miniseries, Man in the Arena; bit roles in TV shows and movies; and producing original comedies, including the upcoming 80 for Brady, a buddy comedy that stars Rita Moreno, Sally Field, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda. Plus, he has a post-retirement football gig lined up, having signed a ten-year, $375 million deal to work as a color commentator on Fox, the same network that hosts, what? Oh yeah, The Masked Singer.
And what do we know about this season of The Masked Singer? Only that, as confirmed to Vulture by Fox, the show started production in late July and wrapped filming the weekend of August 20, coinciding with the Bucs’ stated end of Brady’s absence. The nature of the show would also necessitate secrecy — the identities of the celebrity contestants aren’t revealed until they’re eliminated from competition, so Brady would contractually be sworn to keep his mouth shut. The Bucs, meanwhile, would feasibly be open to their aging star player taking a little break during training camp, saving himself from 10 days of wear and tear on the field. Given his prowess, it’s not like Brady will be unprepared when the season’s meaningful games kick off in September.
Also, let’s not forget that a pro footballer appearing on The Masked Singer isn’t a new thing. Among other players, two of Brady’s teammates, tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Antonio Brown, have taken part, as have current NFL on Fox commentators Joe Buck and Terry Bradshaw, himself a former Super Bowl–winning QB. While Brady’s reps have yet to return Vulture’s requests for comment, NFL reporter Lindsey Ok, a believer in this theory, has reached out to some players who know Brady, with one of them saying he’d absolutely take part in the reality show. She noted to Vulture that none of the players she talked to have confirmed that Brady is doing it, just that it sounds like his M.O.
So there you have it. Brady is MIA from his football team, possibly appearing in a singing competition that’s on the network that’ll pay him hundreds of millions of dollars, that also just happens to be filming during the time he’s away from the public eye. Whenever he returns, he’ll likely remain coy about where he’s been, and we might just have to wait until he’s unmasked as a hot-pink Wolverine or whatever creature the Fox creative team dreams up, after The Masked Singer premieres on September 21 to find out where he went.