Tom Brady will turn 38 prior to the start of the 2015 season. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
In hindsight, it’s probably no surprise that quarterback Tom Brady was the first guy to show up at Gillette Stadium on Monday for the offseason program. He knows older guys take a little longer to get prepared before a workout.
Unless something unforeseen happens, Brady will enter the 2015 season as the fifth-oldest non-kicker or punter in the NFL — the second straight season where the Patriots’ quarterback will have that designation. In addition, he’ll be the 10th-oldest player in the NFL. Here’s a look at the 10 oldest players in the league this past season, with who they played for and their age as of September 1, 2015. (By all accounts, all the players on this list are expected to try and play in 2015.)
1. Kicker Adam Vinatieri, 42 years old (12/28/72)
2. Kicker Phil Dawson, 40 years old (1/23/75)
3. Kicker Matt Bryant, 40 years old (5/29/75)
4. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck 39 years old (9/25/75)
5. Kicker Jay Feely, 39 years old (5/23/76)
6. Punter Shane Lechler 39 years old (8/7/76)
7. Long snapper Mike Leach 38 years old (10/18/76)
8. Quarterback Peyton Manning 39 years old (3/24/76)
9. Defensive back Charles Woodson 38 years old (10/7/76)
10. Quarterback Tom Brady 38 years old (8/3/77)
Brady became one of only five quarterbacks over the age of 35 to win a Super Bowl with the Patriots’ win over the Seahawks in February, joining a group that includes John Elway, Roger Staubach, Jim Plunkett and Johnny Unitas. If he can win another one this year, he’d become the second-oldest quarterback of all-time to win a Super Bowl. Elway was 38 years and 217 days when he won the second of his back-to-back titles. (Brady would be 38 years and 176 days old on Feb. 7, 2016, the date of Super Bowl 50.)
Barring an unforeseen trade, the 2015 season will mark the fourth consecutive year Brady will be the oldest player on the New England roster. (The last time Brady wasn’t the oldest player on the New England roster was at the end of the 2011 season, when offensive lineman Brian Waters, defensive lineman Shaun Ellis and running back Kevin Faulk were all on the team at the time, and all older than the quarterback.) While things could change come draft weekend, currently the youngest player on the New England roster is offensive lineman Cameron Fleming, who will turn 23 on Sept. 3. (To put that in perspective, Fleming was nine when Brady and the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI.) Their current 16-year age difference between Brady and Fleming is the largest age discrepancy on the New England roster since Junior Seau (age 40) and Patrick Chung (age 22) occupied the same roster in 2009.
Of course, older quarterbacks are nothing new for the Patriots. Steve Grogan was 37 years and 103 days when he took his last snap for New England on Nov. 4, 1990. Vinny Testaverde was 43 years and 55 days old when he saw his last action for the Patriots in a playoff win over the Jets on Jan. 7, 2007. And Doug Flutie was 43 years old and 70 days when he delivered the dropkick in the regular-season finale of the 2005 season on Jan. 1, 2005 against the Dolphins.
The good news for the Patriots? Despite his age, the quarterback doesn’t appear to show signs of slowing down. The fact that he was the first player in attendance at Gillette Stadium on Monday shows he’s still got a passion for the game. And as long as there’s enough avocado ice cream in the greater Foxboro area and Alex Guerrero doesn’t leave his side, there’s no telling how long he can keep playing.
With apologies to the punters and kickers, here’s a look at the four position players who will enter the 2015 regular-season older than Brady:
Hasselbeck will turn 40 on September 25. He finished the 2014 season as the third-oldest player in the league (behind Bryant and Dawson), and has every intention of returning for the 2015 season, as the Colts have already re-upped him for next year, his 17th in the NFL. Working in relief of starter Andrew Luck last season, the Bay State native and son of former Patriots tight end Don Hasselbeck went 30-for-44 for 301 yards and two touchdowns in four games in 2014.
Leach — the fifth-oldest player and second-oldest non-kicker or punter — is set to turn 39 years old on October 18, 1976. Leach, who has played 15 seasons in the NFL, just wrapped his sixth year with the Cardinals, and re-signed with Arizona last month for 2015. Leach will enter this season second on the NFL’s active consecutive-games-played list with 200 straight ‘ he entered the lineup in Week 10 of 2002 with the Broncos and hasn’t missed a game since,
Manning, who despite a sluggish finish at the end of last year, has given every indication that he plans to return for 2015. The quarterback, who turned 39 last month, will be the oldest active starting player in the league for the second consecutive season, and will be at the controls of the Denver offense for the fourth year. He is trying to join Brady as only one of a handful of quarterbacks to try and win a Super Bowl after the age of 35.
Woodson will be 39 on October 7, and has made it clear that he intends to return to the Raiders for 2015. Woodson will be the oldest defensive starter in the NFL for the second straight year — prior to that, the ageless linebacker London Fletcher was the oldest defensive player in the league before playing his final game with the Redskins on Dec. 29. 2013 at the age of 38 years and 224 days.