INDIANAPOLIS – Tom Brady is doing something a few Indianapolis Colts have absolutely no interest in replicating.
He’s still playing football at 44.
Brady’s one of two 40-something players in today’s NFL – Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth checks in at 40 – and one of four non-kickers in league history to step on the field at that advanced age. It’s five if you include kicker/quarterback George Blanda, who walked away at 48.
However you look at it, Brady is an aberration in a sport that extracts an immense physical and mental toll from its participants.
A few Colts applauded Brady’s longevity, but have zero interest in following his lead.
T.Y. Hilton is a four-time Pro Bowl wideout who’s in his 10th season. He’s 32 and the Colts’ second-oldest player. Take a bow, Andrew Sendejo (34).
What will Hilton be doing at 44?
“Forty-four?’’ he said with a laugh. “Oh, man. Not doing this, for a fact.
“He’s doing it at a high level still. All hats to him, but I will not be doing this at 44.’’
Linebacker Bobby Okereke, 25, envisions himself working at Goldman Sachs.
Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner? He’s also a relative pup at 27.
“Age 44? Hopefully traveling with my wife somewhere,’’ he said.
Not being one of the NFL’s 40-something guys?
“Absolutely not,’’ Buckner said, laughing. “If I’m playing football at 44 years old, I’m broke.’’
Brady’s staying power is impressive: 22nd season, 311 regular-season games, a record 45 playoff appearances, which is 13 more than No. 2 on the list, former teammate and long-time Colt Adam Vinatieri.
Hilton credited Brady for avoiding the normal abuse many quarterbacks deal with, even though he’s been sacked 533 times in those 311 games. Only Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger has gone down more (537 in 242 games) in NFL history.
But since relocating to Tampa Bay in 2020, Brady has been the NFL’s toughest to bring down with a 3.1% sack rate (33 on 1,066 dropbacks). He’s been sacked 12 times this season, the fewest among regular starters.
“He’s had a great o-line and he also gets the ball out quick,’’ Hilton said. “I don’t think I’ve beaten him yet.
“That’s something we have to do.’’
Hilton knows his history.
Brady is 15-4 against the Colts, including the playoffs, and has won the last eight meetings.
Against the Hilton-led Colts, he’s 6-0.
When the Colts were searching for a transition from the retired Andrew Luck to, well, someone else, their due diligence during the 2020 offseason included vetting Brady. They eventually decided Philip Rivers was their best option, but coach Frank Reich evaluated Brady’s 2019 video from what would be his 20th and final season with the Patriots.
“I don’t know how serious that ever really got,’’ Reich said. “Obviously I love Philip and was very impressed in Philip from the start. I’m not sure anyone thought that (acquiring Brady) was ever really serious on either parties, but I’ve always thought that he’s the best ever.
“I mean, he’s an incredible player. I just marvel at his arm strength at 44 years old. As much as anything, it just boggles my mind. So, still playing at a high level, obviously a ton of respect.’’
Brady leads the league with 27 touchdown passes, is 5th 2,870 yards and 4th with a 106.1 passer rating.
All he’s doing is adding to his Hall of Fame resume. He’s the NFL’s career leader with 82,381 yards and 610 touchdowns. And, of course, there are those seven Super Bowl championships.
It’s safe to say Brady has seen it all over the course of his career.
“You’re not fooling Tom Brady,’’ defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. “That’s not going to happen.’’
It was pointed out to Reich there’s only been one year since 1985 the NFL has been without a Frank Reich or a Tom Brady. Reich’s playing career spanned 1985-98. Brady entered the NFL in 2000 as an unheralded, 6th-round draft pick of the Patriots.
“Yeah,’’ he said, “his career is a little bit more noteworthy.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.