The NFL is the top-level pro football league in the U.S., and as a full-contact sport, it has the tendency to be a short-lived career – at least when compared to a “regular” job where you can work well into your older years. However, there are plenty of older guys suiting up for an NFL team, and some are still leading their teams to Super Bowl wins.
Let’s take a look at the oldest active NFL players for the 2017 season. While many aren’t in positions that see a ton of contact, some are – but no matter what place they take on the field, staying in the game is an impressive feat nonetheless.
The Father Times of the NFL
The oldest active player in the NFL right now is none other than Adam Vinatieri, placekicker for the Indianapolis Colts. The 44-year-old has won four Super Bowls since he entered the league in 1996 as an undrafted free agent. He has also been selected to three Pro Bowls, three All-Pro teams, and while he’s getting ready to kick for the Colts for a 12th season (he was with the Pats for a decade), he’s not letting his age slow him down.
The second oldest NFL player is another kicker – Phil Dawson. Now 42 years old, Dawson was also an undrafted free agent who made the Cleveland Browns squad in 1999 at 24. Currently signed with the Arizona Cardinals, Dawson’s longest stint with a team was with Cleveland, where he kicked for 14 strong seasons. He was selected to the 2012 Pro Bowl and holds the Browns record for consecutive field goals made (29) and most in a game (6). After four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, he was signed by the Cards this past offseason.
Matt Bryant is a 42-year-old placekicker who comes in third on our list. Bryant entered the league at 27 with the New York Giants and has kicked for a few teams since, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his current team, the Atlanta Falcons. This one-time Pro Bowler will kick again for the defending NFC champs this fall.
Our fourth oldest NFL player is a longtime punter – Shane Lechler, age 41. Lechler was drafted in the 2000 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, where he worked for 13 strong seasons and was selected to seven Pro Bowl rosters. Today, he’s playing in his fifth season for the Houston Texans.
No. 5 on this list is not a kicker nor a punter – it’s New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, winner of the last Super Bowl and considered by many to be the greatest quarterback of all time. Brady turned 40 in August led the greatest comeback win in Super Bowl history in early 2017. In addition to five Super Bowl rings, Brady has a number of accolades to his name, including 12 Pro Bowl selections, two MVP awards, and two All-Pro selections. This will be his 18th NFL season, and he’s played them all for New England.
No. 6 is Sebastian Janikowski, the long-time kicker for the Oakland Raiders. Born in Poland, “Seabass” (age 39) was drafted 17th overall by the Raiders in 2000. James Harrison, linebacker for the Steelers, is also 39, and Drew Brees, a veteran quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, is 38.
John Denney, age 38, is No. 8, and he’s also not a kicker nor a punter, although he does work on special teams – Denney is a long snapper for the Miami Dolphins, where he’s spent his entire professional career.
Older Pro Bowlers
The Pro Bowl is an annual event where the best and brightest NFL players are selected to play in a scrimmage, usually taking place either before or after the Super Bowl. Players are selected by NFL coaches, the players themselves, and fans, and aside from a few recent years when the teams were unconferenced, it’s an AFC vs. NFC format. In 2017, the oldest two ballers to play on their respective Pro Bowl teams were Drew Brees (age 38) and Philip Rivers (age 35).
Drew Brees has been selected to the Pro Bowl 10 times over his stellar career. In addition to making the Pro Bowl team, “Breesus” was also the king of passing yards – gaining 5,208 yards during the 2016 season. As Brees shows zero signs of slowing down, it’s not too big of a stretch to imagine a few more Pro Bowl selections in his future.
Philip Rivers has a similar story – the stalwart quarterback has had a solid career that has led to six Pro Bowl selections. If he finds his rhythm with the Los Angeles Chargers again in the 2017 season, who’s to say he won’t be selected to a Pro Bowl again?
Sweatin’ With the Goldies
We looked at all 32 NFL teams and highlighted the oldest player on each team, and while some of these guys are well into their 40s, others are only 32 years old. James Harrison, as mentioned above, is still going strong as a linebacker at age 39. Who else is still going strong past age 35?
One of the younger “old” guys is Niners kicker Robbie Gould (age 35), who has also kicked for the Bears (11 seasons) and Giants (one season). Punter Dustin Colquitt, of the Kansas City Chiefs, is a two-time Pro Bowler and is also 35 years old.
Jets journeyman Josh McCown is also up there in years (for a football player, at least). At 38, the quarterback has previously played for seven NFL teams, which makes the Jets his eighth team. He’s had a few starter stints but has mostly played in a backup role. Despite the long years, he’s not ready to hang up his cleats just yet.
Eli Manning is another standout player who is getting up there in years. He’s 36 years old but doesn’t seem to be edging toward retirement anytime soon. It helps that he has racked up over 48,000 career yards, has four Pro Bowl selections, and two Super Bowl championships under his belt.
And 37-year-old Antonio Gates of the Los Angeles Chargers is still going strong. While his yards per season have been trending downward, he’s still a valuable member of the team.
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Top 10 oldest active players in the NFL
- Adam Vinatieri (44) – Indianapolis Colts
- Phil Dawson (42) – Arizona Cardinals
- Matt Bryant (42) – Atlanta Falcons
- shane Lechler (41) – Houston Texans
- Tom Brady (40) – New England Patriots
- Sebastian Janikowski (39) – Oakland Raiders
- James Harrison (39) – Pittsburgh Steelers
- John Denney (38) – Miami Dolphins
- Terence Newman (38) – Minnesota Vikins
- Drew Brees (38) – New Orleans Saints