Tom Brady shot down retirement rumors and insisted he would play football in 2018 when talking with his buddy Jim Gray ... but there's a catch.
Tom and Jim have been friends for years -- Tom does his radio show every week during the NFL season ... so when we spotted Jim at LAX, we had to ask about the great "Will Tom retire?" debate.
That's when Jim reminded us what Brady told him right before the Super Bowl in February.
"I asked him a question on the air ... I said, 'Regardless of the outcome are you going to return and play football next year?' And he said, 'You WILL see me playing football in 2018.'"
"So those are the words out of his mouth."
Of course, Brady can change his mind if he wants to ... but we're betting he suits up this season.