The NFL is a violent sport that leaves many with incredibly short careers. The average career length of an NFL player is just 3.3 years. However, there is a long list of players that have gone on to stay in the league well into their 40s. These players, of course, have one thing in common: a lack of getting beat up. The majority of players that play into their 40s are either kickers, punters, or quarterbacks.
Oldest Active NFL Player
The oldest active player in the NFL is Tom Brady, former New England Patriots QB, current Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB. Brady took the title from kicker Adam Vinatieri when he was placed on injured reserve by the Indianapolis Colts in the middle of the 2019 season. Vinatieri turned 48-years-old in December 2019, while Brady will turn 43 on August 3, 2020.
Vinatieri is not currently signed with a team but is optimistic about playing in 2020, despite his Hall-of-Fame resume. Vinatieri is a three-time Super Bowl Champion with the New England Patriots in a career that began in 1996. He was with the Patriots through 2005 and signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. That year, Vinatieri won his fourth Super Bowl ring. In his 24-year career, Vinatieri was elected to three Pro Bowls and was a three-time All-Pro.
Oldest Players in NFL History
The oldest player in NFL history is George Blanda, who retired at 48 years old. Blanda played for the Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers, and Chicago Bears during his 26-year career, which is unsurprisingly the record for most NFL seasons played. Blanda was a quarterback for the Bears in the 50s and went on to play quarterback for the Houston Oilers starting in 1960 at the age of 33. Blanda was also a kicker, and after his age 39 season, his last with the Oilers, Blanda went on to kick for the Oakland Raiders from 1967 to 1975.
Kickers have one job to do: kick the ball. It’s no surprise that many kickers can craft their kicking skills deep into their 40s. The second-oldest player to ever take a snap in the NFL is Morten Andersen. Andersen was elected to six pro bowls in his first 13 seasons with the New Orleans Saints. In the mid-80s, Andersen was elected to four straight pro bowls. He was elected again in his first season with the Atlanta Falcons in 1995. It would be his last pro bowl appearance, but it would be enough to keep him in the league for 11 more seasons. His final season was as a 47-year-old in 2007.
John Carney, another kicker, proved that you don’t have to be great at your job to continue to sign contracts as a kicker in the NFL. While Carney was never one of the best kickers in the league, he was steady enough that teams would often prefer him to the alternative. There are never enough good kickers in the NFL, so guys that have proven it in the past often get second, third, and fourth chances.
Carney began with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1988 but was with them for just two seasons. He played for both the St. Louis Rams and the San Diego Chargers in 1990 before sticking with the Charges for the next ten seasons. Although he did not win a ring, Carney was the Chargers kicker in two Super Bowls.
At the age of 37, Carney signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2001. His first stint with the Saints lasted six years. He then bounced around from Jacksonville to Kansas City to New York before finally settling in New Orleans for his final two seasons. Carney retired in 2010 at 46-years-old.
Best of the Rest
After Blanda, Andersen, and Carney, two more kickers check-in at 45 years old: Ben Agajanian, and Gary Anderson. Bobby Marshall, a member of the 1925 Duluth Kelleys, also played at 45 years old in the “E” position. John Nesser, a member of the 1921 Columbus Panhandles, also comes in at 45-years-old as the oldest offensive lineman in NFL history. Atlanta Falcons 2019 kicker Matt Bryant is currently 45 but has not been re-signed for the 2020 season at this point.
At 44-years-old, three quarterbacks make the list: Steve DeBerg, Warren Moon, and Vinny Testaverde. The list grows deeper at 43, with guard Ray Brown, kickers Phil Dawson, Jan Stenerud, and Lou Groza, along with quarterback Doug Flutie and punters Jeff Feagles, Sean Landeta, and Matt Turk.
A list of old NFL players would not be complete without Jerry Rice. No skill-position offensive player has played close to as long as Jerry Rice, who is often regarded as the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. Rice played until he was 42 years old. No other wide receiver or running back has played into their 40s.