TAMPA, Fla. (AP) There’s a fine line between a Tom Brady and a Gale Sayers.
Whether a player is a seven-time Super Bowl champion who plays into 40 like Brady or an all-time great running back eliminated from football during his prime like Sayers, there is an element of luck to longevity in the NFL. .
It is inescapable, regardless of the time.
Despite all the evolving technology, increased awareness of the value of year-round fitness regimens, and rule changes designed to make the game safer, players recognize that good fortune is a common denominator. to stay in the field.
“People don’t like to use the word luck, but there’s definitely something to that,” Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks said. “You have to take care of your body and do everything to give yourself the opportunity to play every week, but you also have to be lucky.
“I can’t tell you how many times my ankle was sprained at the bottom of a pile or somebody hit me and I was like, man, I’m lucky I didn’t get hurt,” Brooks added. “Then you look at someone else and think it wasn’t such a bad hit, and it turns out to be a serious injury. You never know”.
Trey Lance can identify. The San Francisco quarterback suffered a season-ending injury 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 spans three to five years, Brady is in his 23rd season and is the oldest starting quarterback in NFL history at 45. in 2008 to break numerous records and raise the NFL standard for winning.
Sayers, an electrifying running back whose career with the Chicago Bears was cut short by injuries 50 years ago, wasn’t so lucky.
The first player to score six touchdowns in an NFL game retired in 1971, having appeared in just 68 games over seven seasons. Sayers played in two games each of his last two seasons, but he had such an impact on the Bears and the league that at 34, he became the youngest player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“We don’t know when our career will end. We just have to prepare for each day and attack each day with our best effort,” said New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, who returned this season after missing much of 2021 while recovering from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee. .
“I’m lucky to be able to play quarterback. I don’t have to play running back, linebacker, defensive line or offensive line. So, I can’t complain,” added Winston. “Those guys in the trenches, they’re really hitting. They are really putting their lives on the line with every play. But they enjoy it and do whatever it takes to protect themselves.”
Brett Favre made 297 consecutive regular season starts between 1992 and 2010 for the Green Bay Packers, New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings, the longest streak for an offensive player in league history. Jim Marshall had the longest Iron Man streak for a defensive player, starting 270 in a row 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’s at stake on every play,” Brooks said. ”Do not think it. He goes out and plays. You can’t play scared.”
Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, whose father Steve played in the NFL, was drafted by New Orleans in 2011 and has missed only one game in his entire career.
And that was because of COVID-19, not because of a football injury.
“Everyone plays with scratches and bruises,” Jordan said. “The funny story my dad used to tell me, or probably will tell my kids, is that the first day you play football is the last day you’re truly 100 percent healthy.”
One of the reasons is that an injured player will take the field while an injury will sideline him.
Brady has the longest streak of consecutive starts among active quarterbacks (94). He is closing in on becoming the only player with three streaks of at least 100.
The Bucs started this season with two new young starters on the offensive line. Second-year pro Robert Hainsey and rookie Luke Goedeke had earned Brady’s trust in practice, in part by “showing up every day” and learning from his mistakes.
“Football is a dangerous sport. If they don’t do a great job, they put other people at risk. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it could be dangerous for the backs and the quarterback and vice versa,” Brady said.
“Nobody wants to be hanged,” Brady added. “We are all together, we are all trying to protect each other. The more you feel like guys know what to do and care about what they’re doing, I think you gain more confidence in them.”
Aaron Rodgers is 38 years old and in his 18th season. He said poor-quality playing surfaces can contribute to injuries, noting that it can also be difficult to prevent serendipitous things from happening off the field.
The Green Bay quarterback said he broke his left little finger while working out at home during his quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 in 2021.
While the injury didn’t cause him to miss a game and didn’t limit his effectiveness, Rodgers recalled playing without practice because of a sore toe.
Jordan knows all about doing whatever it takes to be available for the Saints.
“In terms of not missing a game, I feel like it’s a huge blessing from above,” the defensive end said. “I feel that God has blessed me not only with talent but also with opportunities and I have been able to take advantage of each and every opportunity presented.
“I mean, long before the NFL, there’s college, and I missed a game there, too,” Jordan added. “So I missed one at that level, one at this level. Apparently, I can miss one.”
Not many NFL players can say that.
AP sportswriters Brett Martel in New Orleans and Steve Megargee in Green Bay, Wisconsin contributed to this report.
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