Turn­ing 40: Brady show­ing few signs of de­cline head­ing into mile­stone age

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY KYLE HIGHTOWER

Pro­fes­sional ath­letes mea­sure achieve­ment in cham­pi­onships, with a con­stant eye slanted to­ward Fa­ther Time.

Next up for Tom Brady is chal­leng­ing the con­ven­tional wisdom of how long a quar­ter­back can play at a high level in the NFL. The leader of the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots turns 40 to­day, an age con­sid­ered both a line of de­mar­ca­tion and de­cline for even the game’s great­est names.

Brady al­ready re­de­fined what it meant to have suc­cess af­ter age 35 even be­fore he cap­tured his fifth Su­per Bowl ring last sea­son. With a stated de­sire to play un­til age 45 — and pos­si­bly beyond it — Brady might one day find him­self in rarer com­pany.

Ac­cord­ing to Pro Foot­ball Ref­er­ence, Brady is poised to be­come the 20th quar­ter­back in league his­tory to ap­pear in a game at 40 or older.

Whether it’s a byprod­uct of the sys­tem he plays in, avoid­ing in­jury, or the train­ing and nutri­tion reg­i­men he swears by, un­like vir­tu­ally all of his pre­de­ces­sors Brady isn’t show­ing signs of slow­ing down.

“For Tom I think it’s gonna come down more to mo­ti­va­tion,” said Hall of Fame quar­ter­back War­ren Moon, who re­tired at age 44 af­ter 17 NFL sea­sons and six in the CFL. “Does he see him­self hav­ing the same mo­ti­va­tion, drive and de­sire five years from now that he has right now?”

Since 2000, seven quar­ter­backs have thrown a pass over the age of 40 in the NFL: Moon, Brett Favre, Vinny Tes­taverde, Matt Has­sel­beck, Doug Flu­tie, Mark Brunell and Brad John­son.

Of that group, only Moon (1997, age 41) and Favre (2009, age 40) have earned Pro Bowl se­lec­tions af­ter cross­ing into their fifth decade.

“I think in­juries will have a lot to do with (how long Brady plays),” Moon said. “He’s won five Su­per Bowls. How many more years can he have that deep down, burn­ing de­sire to want to win?”

Favre posted the best sea­son of any 40-year-old sig­nal caller, com­plet­ing 68 per cent of his passes for 4,202 yards and 33 touch­downs in 2009 — his 19th sea­son. Moon threw for 3,678 yards and 25 touch­downs in his 14th sea­son in 1997.

Mean­while, Brady is com­ing off his 12th Pro Bowl se­lec­tion and is play­ing as if he’s still in his prime. At 39, he threw for 3,554 yards and 28 touch­downs in a reg­u­lar sea­son short­ened by his four-game “De­flate­gate” suspension. In ad­di­tion, his 67.4 com­ple­tion per­cent­age last sea­son was sec­ond only to the 68.9 per cent he com­pleted dur­ing his 2007 MVP sea­son.

Brady also has been find­ing the end zone at a higher rate the older he gets.

Brady has av­er­aged 31 touch­downs per sea­son since turn­ing 35 in 2012. He av­er­aged 30 touch­downs from age 26 to 30. In 2007, he threw for a ca­reer­high and NFL-record 50 touch­downs.

By com­par­i­son, over his fi­nal five sea­sons, Pey­ton Man­ning av­er­aged 34 touch­downs. Favre came in at 22.

Has­sel­beck played at 40 in 2015. He said Brady ben­e­fits from play­ing in a quar­ter­back­friendly rules era, but he does take a fair amount of hits.

He also sees a player de­fy­ing his age in other ways.

“He looked bet­ter than I have ever seen at run­ning or scram­bling,” Has­sel­beck said. “It was like all the ex­tra at­ten­tion he’s put in train­ing and re­cov­ery showed up on the foot­ball field.”

Un­like Favre, who loathed train­ing camp, Brady still em­braces the pre­sea­son.

Since 2004 when Brady was 27, he also has re­lied on a nutri­tion and work­out pro­gram de­vel­oped by friend and health guru Alex Guerrero. Un­der Guerrero’s guid­ance, Brady fol­lows a mostly plant-based diet dur­ing the sea­son.

AP PHOTO

New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots quar­ter­back Tom Brady works out with a re­sis­tance band at NFL train­ing camp on Tues­day in Foxborough, Mass.

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