If the New England Patriots had any doubt that Tom Brady could still be an elite quarterback when he left as a free agent last year, the future Hall of Famer has certainly proved them wrong. Brady has shown no signs of slowing down at 44 years old, raising the question of how much longer he might play.

Rumors suggest that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was ready to move on from Brady, who spent two decades as the team’s starter. Ahead of Brady’s first visit to New England as an opposing player, the coach acknowledged that Brady might not be close to the end of his professional football career.

"Nothing Tom does surprises me," Belichick told reporters Wednesday. "He's a great player, works hard, takes care of himself. He's talked about playing until 50. If anybody can do it, he probably can.

"Tom's had an unbelievable career. There's not enough superlatives and adjectives to compliment him on everything that he's achieved and continues to achieve. It's unbelievably impressive."

Because Brady continues to defy Father Time, he’s often asked about his potential retirement. Coming off his fifth Super Bowl championship in 2017, Brady said he hoped to play until he was 45 years old. Brady didn’t rule out playing until his 50th birthday back then, and it seems like an even more reasonable idea in 2021.

"Seems to be a really hot question lately. Can Tom Brady play until 50? Like 50 years old?" Brady told teammate Rob Gronkowski on an episode of "Tommy & Gronky" last week. "I don't find it so difficult. I think I can. It's a yes."

Brady signed a contract extension in the offseason that will keep him with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers through the 2022 season.

Brady won his sixth and final Super Bowl title for the Patriots in 2019. The quarterback won a record fifth Super Bowl MVP award in February when he led Tampa Bay past the Kansas City Chiefs.

While Brady won a championship in his first season away from New England, Belichick and the Patriots missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. New England is on its second quarterback in as many years, using its first-round pick to take Mac Jones in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Brady and Tampa Bay are heavy favorites Sunday in Brady’s return to New England.

Tom Brady Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on after winning Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Florida. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images