TAMPA, Fla. (AP) There’s a fine line between Tom Brady and Gale Sayers.
Whether it’s a seven-time Super Bowl champion playing well into his 40s like Brady or an all-time great running back in his prime like Sayers, lucky longevity in the NFL.
It is inevitable, regardless of the era.
For all the evolving technology, increased awareness of the value of year-round fitness regimes and rule changes designed to make the game safer, players admit good fortune is a common denominator in staying on the field. .
”People don’t like to use the word luck, but there’s no doubt there’s something to that,” Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks said. ”You have to take care of your body and do everything you can to give yourself a chance to play every week, but you also have to be lucky.
”I can’t tell you how many times I’ve twisted my ankle in a pile or somebody hit me and I’m thinking, man, I’m lucky I wasn’t hurt,” Brooks added. ”Then you look at someone else and think that is not a bad hit, and it turns out to be a serious injury. You never know.”
Trey Lance can relate. The San Francisco quarterback suffered a season-ending injury on Sunday, just two games into the season. But the 22-year-old need look no further than Brady for inspiration.
In a league where the average career is between three and five years, Brady is in his 23rd season and is the oldest starting quarterback in NFL history at age 45. The league’s career passing leader returned from a knee injury that sidelined him for one game. in 2008 to break many records and raise the standard of the NFL.
Sayers, an electrifying runner whose career with the Chicago Bears was cut short by injuries 50 years ago, was not so lucky.
The first player to score six touchdowns in an NFL game retired in 1971, having appeared in 68 games over seven seasons. Sayers played in two games each of his final seasons, but had such an impact on the Bears and the league that he became the youngest player ever to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at age 34.
”We don’t know when our career will end. We just have to prepare for every day and attack every day with our best effort,” said New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, who is back this season after missing much of 2021 and recovering from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. .
”I’m lucky to play quarterback. I don’t have to play running back, linebacker, defensive line or offensive line. So, I can’t complain,” Winston added. ”The guys in the trenches, they’re really hitting. They are really risking their lives every play. But they enjoy that, and they do whatever it takes to protect themselves.”
Brett Favre started 297 consecutive regular seasons from 1992 to 2010 for the Green Bay Packers, New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings – the longest such streak by an offensive player in league history. Jim Marshall had the longest hitting streak for a defensive player, making 270 straight starts with the Vikings from 1961 to 1979.
Brooks’ streak of 208 consecutive starts for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996 to 2008 is tied for 12th on the all-time list with Peyton Manning.
“Every player knows the risk, what every play is about,” Brooks said. ”You don’t think about it. You go out and have fun. You can’t play with fear.”
Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, whose father Steve played in the NFL, was drafted by New Orleans in 2011 and has missed just one game in his entire career.
And that was because of COVID-19, not because of a football injury.
”Everybody plays with nicks and bruises,” Jordan said. ”The constant funny story that my dad would tell me, or I’ll probably tell my kids, is that the first day you play football is the last day you’re 100 percent healthy.” ‘
One reason for that is that an injured player will take the field and hurt them.
Brady has the longest streak of consecutive starts among active quarterbacks (94). He will close when he becomes the only player with at least three streaks of 100.
The Bucs entered this season with two new young starters on the offensive line. Second-year pro Robert Hainsey and rookie Luke Goedeke earned Brady’s trust in practice, in part by “showing up every day” and learning from their mistakes.
”Football is a dangerous sport. If they don’t do a great job, they put others at risk. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be dangerous for the (running) backs and the quarterback, and vice versa,” Brady said.
”Nobody wants to be hung out to dry,” Brady said. ”We’re all out there together, we’re all trying to protect each other. The more you feel the guys know what they’re doing and if they care about what they’re doing, I think you’ll trust them more.”
Aaron Rodgers is 38 and in his 18th season. He said that shoddy playing surfaces can contribute to injuries, and noted that it can also be difficult to avoid fluky things off the field.
The Green Bay quarterback said he broke his left pinky toe while working out at home during his quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 in 2021.
Although the injury did not take him out of any games and did not limit his effectiveness, Rodgers recalled playing without practice because of his sore toe.
Jordan knows all about whatever it takes to be available for the Saints.
”In terms of not missing a game, I think it’s just a big blessing from above,” the defensive end said. ”I feel that God blessed me not only with talent but with opportunity and I was able to take advantage of every opportunity that was given.
”I mean, long before the NFL, there’s no college, and I missed a game there, too,” Jordan said. ”So I lost one at that level, one at this level. Apparently, I’m allowed to miss one.”
Not many NFL players can say that.
AP Sports Writers Brett Martel in New Orleans and Steve Megargee in Green Bay, Wisconsin contributed to this report.
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