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10 Players with the longest NFL careers

Vincent Frank

Who has had the longest NFL career in history? It’s a good question with specialists pretty much controlling the list.

However, some of the greatest quarterbacks in history are among those who have suited up the longest. The same can be said about the best wide receiver to ever take to an NFL field.

Below, we look at the longest NFL career in history — ranked from 10th to one.

10. Brett Favre, quarterback (tied)

longest nfl career: brett favre
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC
  • Games played: 302
  • Teams: Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings
  • Years active: 1991-2010

Favre had anything but an average NFL career. Here’s a dude who found himself jettisoned from the Atlanta Falcons following his rookie season back in 1991. It proved to be the biggest mistake the Falcons ever made with Favre putting up record numbers in Green Bay.

From 1992-07 with the Packers, Favre earned nine Pro Bowl appearances. He earned three NFL MVP award and led the organization to a Super Bowl title. Once all was said and done in Green Bay, Favre was the franchise leader in wins, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns. Not to be outdone, he earned Pro Bowl spots with the Jets and Vikings to close out his career. That included putting up 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns in Minnesota during the 2009 season.

Related: 2021 NFL Power Rankings – Buccaneers dominate, Dallas Cowboys must make changes

10. John Carney, kicker (tied)

average nfl career: john carney
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Game played: 302
  • Teams: San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams
  • Years active: 1998-2010

A member of the Notre Dame all-time team, it was a surprise to see that Carney was not drafted back in 1987. Well, the Connecticut native pretty much proved all the skeptics wrong.

This included Carney earning two Pro Bowl honors, winning Super Bowl XLIV as a member of the New Orleans Saints and finishing as the San Diego Chargers’ all-time leading scorer. All said, Carney connected on a whopping 82% of his field goals in a career that spanned from 1988-2010.

9. Jerry Rice, wide receiver

longest nfl career: jerry rice
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Games played: 303
  • Teams: San Francsico 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks
  • Years active: 1985-2014

If we are looking at average NFL career length, Rice’s first three NFL seasons would have made him a notable player (200 receptions, 3,575 yards, 40 touchdowns). However, the fact that this 13-time Pro Bowler starred over the course of three decades at wide receiver is just surreal. Here’s a dude who put up 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns in his Age-40 season with the then-Oakland Raiders back in 2002.

Obviously, Rice’s claim to fame his his performance during a 16-year stint with the San Francisco 49ers. That included winning three Super Bowl championships and registering over 1,000 yards a whopping 12 times. Catching passes from the combination of Joe Montana and Steve Young, Rice finished his career as the all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns — none of which will be broken in our lifetimes. He’s GOAT for a reason.

Related: NFL defense rankings – Best defenses in NFL playoffs

8. Phil Dawson, kicker

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
  • Games played: 305
  • Teams: Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals
  • Years active: 1999-2018

Already included in our list of oldest NFL players, Dawson was still going strong well into his mid-40s. Here’s a dude who suited up from 1999-2018. He’s the Browns’ all-time leader in field goals made and holds the 49ers’ single-season record for points and field goals.

A two-time All-Pro and one-time Pro Bowler, the success Dawson had over the course of his career is somewhat surprising. After all, he was a practice squad member of the Raiders and Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 1998 — failing to suit up in a regular-season game for either team. Let that sink in for a second.

7. Tom Brady, quarterback

NFL: Super Bowl LV-Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Feb 7, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
  • Games played: 317
  • Teams: New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Years active: 2000-current

Forget about the average career length of an NFL player, Mr. Tom Brady has had himself multiple careers since entering the league as a second-round pick of the Patriots back in 2000. The numbers are eye-opening. A record seven Super Bowl titles. The all-time NFL leader in quarterback wins, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns. Over 700 career touchdowns, postseason included. A total of 15 Pro Bowl appearances and three NFL MVP awards. Need we go any further? I think not.

What makes Brady so special is the fact that he’s still playing at a high level into his mid-40s. To put this into perspective, Buccaneers rookie quarterback Kyle Trask was two years old when Brady made his NFL debut. That’s all sorts of insane.

Is Tom Brady the greatest of all time or a cheater?

6. Jason Hanson, kicker

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
  • Games played: 327
  • Teams: Detroit Lions
  • Years active: 1992-2012

The only player on this list to suit up for just one team, it’s not an overreaction to say that Hanson is among the top-10 players in Lions franchise history. As much as that says about Detroit’s recent futility, it’s equally impressive on the former kicker’s part.

How good was Hanson? Dude connected on 82% of his field goals during a brilliant 21-year career. He holds NFL records for most field goals of 40-plus yards (189), most consecutive field goals of 40-plus yards (24), most career games with one NFL team (327) and most game-winning field goals in overtime (nine). Enough said.

5. George Blanda, quarterback/kicker

longest nfl career: george blanda
Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports © Copyright Manny Rubio
  • Games played: 340
  • Teams: Chicago Bears, Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers, Baltimore Colts
  • Years active: 1949-1958, 1960-1975

Now, this is just insane. A 12th-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 1949, Blanda actually suited up in the NFL in four different decades. He made various all-star teams as both a quarterback and kicker starting with the Houston Oilers in 1963 and concluding with the then-Oakland Raiders in 1967.

Blanda’s career accomplishments includes most passing touchdowns in a game (seven), most seasons played (26), most extra points (943), first player to score over 2,000 points and most points accounted for. Oh, and Blanda still boasts the single-season record for most interceptions thrown (42). Yes, that’s a thing.

Related: NFL mock draft – Minnesota Vikings land QB, Giants and Jets reshape futures

4. Jeff Feagles, punter

NFL: New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Games played: 352
  • Teams: New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots
  • Years active: 1988-2009

The longest NFL career for a punter goes to this former undrafted free agent from Miami (F). Sure most won’t focus on Feagles when talking about the Jimmy Johnson-led Hurricanes of the 1980’s, but he put in one of the best professional careers of that dynasty.

We’re talking about a dude who suited up for 22 years with fie different teams. Feagles earned two Pro Bowls (14 years apart). He also holds the NFL record for most consecutive games played (352), most punts (1,713), most punts inside the 20 (497) and most punting yards (71,211). Yes, that’s 40.5 miles worth of punts for you math majors out there.

3. Gary Anderson, kicker

USA TODAY Sports
MPS-USA TODAY Sports
  • Games played: 353
  • Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers
  • Years active: 1982-2004

A seventh-round pick of the Buffalo Bills back in 1982, Anderson was actually released by the team before the regular season. Boy, that ended up being a mistake for the organization.

In addition to being one of the oldest players to suit up, Anderson finished his brilliant 23-year career having earned four Pro Bowl honors and two All-Pro honors. He’s the only player in NFL history to convert on all of his field goals and extra-point attempts in a single regular season. Did we mention Anderson finished his NFL career having converted on 80% of his field goals and 99.2% of his extra points?

Related: NFL Top 100 Players of 2021 – Micah Parsons, Cooper Kupp debut

2. Adam Vinatieri, kicker

Syndication: USATODAY
Jim Hudelson, USA TODAY, USA TODAY via Imagn Content Services, LLC
  • Games played: 365
  • Teams: New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts
  • Years active: 1996-2019

Widely known for hitting multiple game-winning fields goals in the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots, Vinatieri will ultimately go down as one of the few regular kickers to earn a spot in Canton. That’s not hyperbole. This is just how darn good the former South Dakota State star was with the Patriots (10 seasons) and Colts (14 seasons).

Vinatieri finished his career as the NFL leader in games played (both regular season and playoffs), most career field goals made, most field goals attempts and most career points. He also hit on an absurd 84% of his attempts throughout a career that spanned nearly a quarter-century.

1. Morten Anderson, kicker

NFL: New Orleans Saints-Training Camp
Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
  • Games played: 382
  • Teams: New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants
  • Years active: 1982-2004, 2006-2007

The all-time NFL leader in games played, Anderson earned seven Pro Bowl appearances during his brilliant 26-year career. At the age of 47 with the Falcons, he made nearly 90% of his attempts. Talk about longevity and doing it right for a ton of years.

What makes Anderson such a staple around the NFL is the fact that he held 17 league records once his career came to an end back in 2007. That includes most game-winning field goals, most 50-yard field goals in a game, most games with points and most consecutive games scoring a point. Not too bad for a Dane.