Longest NFL Careers – NFL Players With Longest Careers By Position| Games| Seasons
Last Updated: December 20, 2023
Having one of the longest NFL careers is an achievement on its own. Especially considering how physical the sport is. With so much contact going on, it’s no wonder many careers are cut short by some of the worst NFL injuries to date.
So who makes up the list of NFL players with longest careers? Naturally, you won’t see many of the NFL rushing leaders make it. Oddly enough, only one of the top 10 oldest QBs to win a Super Bowl makes this list.
Determining the longest NFL careers can vary depending on the criteria. Some players logged in minutes in many seasons. But their bodies didn’t get as much mileage as some others. Many of them played on special teams, which means they took a lot less beating than the skilled positions. Let’s dive in!
Header: The Ringer
Longest NFL Careers by Games Played
These are the longest NFL careers by games played in NFL history. The former placekicker holds the NFL record for most games played with 382. And he’s an entire season ahead of the second entry on that list.
Longest NFL Careers by Seasons Played
George Blanda is the man with the longest NFL career by season played. Blanda took to an NFL pitch in 26 unique seasons, setting an NFL record. He also holds the NFL record for the oldest NFL player ever, suiting up at 48 years of age.
Longest NFL Career QB
Technically, Joe Blanda is the oldest NFL player at the QB position. During his last 2 seasons in the NFL in 1974-75, Blanda completed 1 of 3 passing attempts in both campaigns. Considering that he was primarily a kicker, we’ll not be honoring him with this distinction.
Instead, it’s our good old friend Tom Brady, who terrorized the AFC for two decades. Do you know what’s the only QB to be both the oldest and youngest QB to win a Super Bowl? That tells you everything you need to know about the legacy of this man.
Born on August 3, 1977, Tom Brady has become synonymous with football greatness. He has carved out a legendary career that defies the conventions of the average NFL player. Brady retired at the age of 45, boasting a staggering 335 games played over the sixth longest NFL career ever.
Brady’s journey commenced in 2000 when he entered the league as a sixth-round pick for the New England Patriots. Over the course of 23 seasons (2000-2023), Brady earned 7 Super Bowl titles and five Super Bowl MVP awards during those runs.
His statistics are nothing short of eye-opening, considering he was the oldest quarterback to ever do it. Brady stands as the all-time leader in quarterback wins, completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns.
Surpassing the 700 career touchdowns mark, including postseason play, he has demonstrated a level of consistency and excellence that few can rival. In addition to his Super Bowl victories, Brady’s accolades include 15 Pro Bowl appearances and 3 NFL MVP awards.
Even as he reached the age of 44, Brady continued to defy expectations. He delivered one of the most productive seasons for a player of that age with 485 completions, 5,316 passing yards, and an impressive 43 touchdown passes.
If it wasn’t for his ACL injury in 2008 and the Deflategate suspension in 2016, Tom Brady would probably be only the second NFL player ever to play over 300 games with one team. But still, it’s amazing how long he managed to maintain his level of play.
Especially considering most of the guys on this list barely saw play for most of their careers, let alone took the hits that defenders were looking to put on Brady. That Tom Brady vs Drew Brees comparison looks a lot bleaker now.
Longest NFL Career Wide Receiver
Jerry Rice, the greatest receiver in NFL history, had one of the longest NFL careers of all time. His remarkable career spanned 20 seasons in which he played for multiple teams. Most notable of these being, his stint with the San Francisco 49ers.
As a 3-time Super Bowl winner and MVP of Super Bowl XXIII, Rice’s list of achievements is tough to beat. His name is etched in the NFL record books as the all-time leader in receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895), and touchdowns (208). Not even the best defensive backs of all time could slow Rice down.
Rice played in 303 NFL games, spanning from 1985 to 2004. For your information, that is a total unmatched by any other skill-position player. He spent 16 of his 20 seasons with the 49ers, which led to the retirement of his iconic number 80 jersey by the organization in 2010.
His journey began with notable stats even in his first three seasons, with 200 receptions, 3,575 yards, and 40 touchdowns. However, it’s the surreal longevity and excellence over three decades that set Rice apart.
Notably, in his age-40 season with the Oakland Raiders in 2002, Rice showcased his enduring talent by amassing 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns. This was a testament to his unmatched skill and work ethic, as he scored the highest number of points by a non-kicker in NFL history with 1,256.
Rice’s prime years with the 49ers were particularly legendary, as he recorded over 1,000 yards an impressive 12 times. Playing alongside iconic quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, Rice became the all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
These are records that are unlikely to be broken in our lifetimes. His status as the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) is well-deserved.
Longest NFL Career Running Back
Do you know how long is the average running back career in the NFL? Two to three years if we’re being generous. And this isn’t a surprise to anyone, given how much beating that position takes on a weekly basis.
So seeing someone register 16 seasons as the main running back on a roster is amazing. It’s why Frank Gore is 3rd all-time in rushing yards. Having one of the longest NFL careers ever certainly helps with that.
Born on May 14, 1983, Gore was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft. His 241 career games are the NFL record for most games played by a running back. For context, Emmit Smith is the only other player to be on the top 10 of that list and have been handed the ball off so often.
Gore recorded 9 1,000-yard rushing seasons, showcasing his ability to perform at a high level year after year. Most of these came during his time with the 49ers, where he became the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.
Gore’s accolades aren’t a true testament to his greatness as is his durability. He earned five Pro Bowl selections during his career and was named to the All-Pro second team in 2006. But his impact was not limited to the regular season, he also helped his teams make deep playoff runs.
He played a pivotal role in the 49ers’ Super Bowl appearance in the 2012 season, recording 320 yards and 4 touchdowns on 63 carries in 3 games. Outside of his remarkable consistent production, Gore overcame multiple injuries and setbacks.
For a running back who was never one of the fastest NFL players, his unique playing style probably helped him have one of the longest NFL careers. His exceptional vision, patience, and ability to find cracks in the coverage, served him well into his later years.
Longest NFL Career with One team
The Detroit Lions have been one of the worst NFL teams since the turn of the millennium. But that didn’t stop Jason Hanson from being faithful to them every step of the way. Now that’s the type of commitment women these days desire.
When it comes to NFL longevity and loyalty, Jason Hanson stands alone at the top. Boasting a remarkable 21-season career with the Detroit Lions spanning from 1992 to 2012. Hanson is the only player on this list to spend his entire career with a single team.
And he has solidified himself as one of the greatest kickers in both Lions franchise history and NFL lore. Hanson’s 327 games played with the Lions set an NFL record for the most appearances for a single team.
Jason Hanson (21 Seasons)
His 21 seasons with Detroit are tied with Geoge Blanda’s for most campaigns spent with a single organization. Throughout this tenure, Hanson accumulated an impressive 2,150 NFL points.
Every single statistic we mentioned about Jason, he’s top 5 in NFL history in that regard, which says a lot about his longevity and consistent excellence in his role as a kicker. Notably, Hanson’s accuracy was a defining feature of his illustrious career. He connected on an impressive 82% of his field goals over two decades.
His reliability was further proven by his record for the most consecutive field goals of 40 yards or more. He maintained this impressive streak of 24 successful attempts. In addition to this, Hanson holds the NFL record for the most field goals of 40-plus yards (189), proving his prowess in longer-distance kicks.
Beyond the statistical achievements, Hanson’s impact on the Lions franchise is immeasurable. Apart from showing loyalty to the team through thick and thin, Jason also nailed 17 game-winning field goals during his career. He became someone they could count on in crucial moments, making large contributions to their rare wins.
That’s why his contributions were fully recognized when he was inducted into the Lions’ Ring of Honor, cementing his place as one of the franchise’s all-time greats. Even in his last campaign at age 42, Hanson maintained a remarkable 89% field goal success rate.
Hanson retired as the only player to suit up for more than 300 games with a single team. While Hanson may not have garnered the same level of notoriety as some of the stars of his time, his legacy is undeniable.
Longest NFL Career Non Kicker
George Blanda’s 26-season journey stands at the top of the longest NFL careers of all time. Now, it’s important to keep this in mind. George Blanda was a kicker. But he was also a quarterback.
Because he started just one game as a QB after turning 40, we gave that honor to Tom Brady. But then again, George Blanda’s legacy is far superior to any punter we would have put here. He’s also the oldest NFL player ever who happened to play under George Halas, one of the NFL coaches with the most wins.
The NFL has witnessed its fair share of legends. But George Blanda’s remarkable 26 seasons are a testament to his enduring greatness. From 1949 to 1975, Blanda managed to find his way on NFL and AFL fields, leaving an indelible mark not only as a quarterback but also as a record-setting placekicker.
His journey took him through four different teams: the Chicago Bears, the Baltimore Colts, the Houston Oilers, and the Oakland Raiders. In the early days of the NFL, Blanda’s versatility as both a quarterback and a kicker was held in high regard.
In his time with Chicago, Blanda led the league in passing attempts and completions once, while being one of the best kickers at the time. His time with the Houston Oilers was a lot more productive.
While not considered a phenomenal quarterback, Blanda’s impact was substantial. He led the league in pass completions another 3 times. Also, he topped the charts in passing yards on multiple occasions, serving as an offensive hub for his team.
In his second season with the Oilers, Blanda led the league in touchdowns and extra-point kicks made, which resulted in him winning the MVP award. In total, Blanda threw an impressive 236 touchdown passes throughout his career.
Being the NFL’s first ironman, Blanda’s longevity enabled him to become the all-time leader in extra points made with an impressive 943. He also co-owns the NFL record for most touchdowns in a game with 7, adding to his insanely rich resume.
Apart from being the oldest NFL player ever, Blanda was also the first NFL fantasy player. However, anyone taking him back then probably regrets it. The brother led the league in interceptions 4 straight times following his MVP season and set the single-season NFL record with 42 interceptions thrown.
Longest NFL Career by Position
|Jeff Van Note/ Blair Bush
|Kick Return/ Punt Return
|John Randle/ Jeff Zgonina
Top 10 Longest NFL Careers
Morten Andersen (Kicker)
Morten Andersen is the NFL’s all-time leader in games played. Also known as ‘The Great Dane,’ Andersen etched his name in NFL history with an extraordinary career that spanned an impressive 25 seasons.
Andersen, born on August 19, 1960 and originally from Denmark, came to the United States as an exchange student. His NFL journey began in 1982 when he started his career with the New Orleans Saints. Over the next two and a half decades, Andersen’s remarkable talent took him through various teams.
He played for the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, and Minnesota Vikings, and concluded his illustrious career back with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007.
Throughout his tenure, Andersen participated in an astounding 7 Pro Bowls. But his legacy is marked by his record-setting 382 games played. Andersen’s kicking prowess was also unparalleled, with 565 field goals and 849 extra points to his name.
Despite not owning one of the longest NFL field goals, his longevity and precision paved the way for his career. During his time with the Falcons at the age of 47, Andersen maintained an impressive accuracy rate, making nearly 90% of his attempts. Now we know they didn’t call him “Mr. Automatic” for nothing.
What sets Andersen apart from other kickers and makes him a staple in NFL history is his staggering 17 league records. These records include notable achievements such as the most 50-yard field goals in a game, most game-winning field goals, most games with points, and most consecutive games scoring a point.
In 1995, Morten Andersen became the first player to kick three field goals in a single game, all of which were over 50 yards. You just can’t teach greatness.
Adam Vinatieri (Kicker)
I’m not sure who’s more clutch than Adam Vinatieri and Tom Brady. But those 2 are responsible for most of the success the Patriots franchise has enjoyed. Heck, his field goal led to Tom Brady’s first Super Bowl win.
Adam Vinatieri is often regarded as the greatest kicker in NFL history, and for good reason. He participated in 365 NFL games, which is good for the second most all-time. Which is quite impressive given that he accomplished it in 24 seasons. Then again, this guy had an amazing playoff pedigree.
His illustrious 24-season career spanned from 1996 to 2019. The legend of the clutch master was forged over a decade-long tenure with the New England Patriots from 1996 to 2005, followed up by a remarkable 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts from 2006 to 2019.
He scored 2 Super Bowl-winning field goals to secure Brady’s first 2 rings and helped them repeat the following year in 2005. By the time Vinatieri left the Patriots in 2005, he had kicked 18 game-winning field goals with less than one minute remaining, including the postseason.
He then joined the AFC-rival Indianapolis Colts and helped Payton Manning become one of the highest-paid NFL players ever by winning the 2006 NFL Super Bowl. With 4 rings in 6 seasons, and multiple clutch performances in horrible weather, the legend of Adam Vinatieri quickly grew.
Vinatieri nailed 84% of his kicks, played the second-most games of all time, and finished his career as the all-time leader in several categories, including most career field goals made, most field goal attempts, and most career points.
The four-time Super Bowl winner’s list of records is staggering. He has the most field goals converted (599), most postseason points (238), and most field goals made in overtime (12).
Gary Anderson (Kicker)
Gary Anderson’s football journey unfolded over an incredible 23-season career in the National Football League (NFL). Born in South Africa, where he initially played soccer, Anderson’s pivot to American football marked the beginning of one of the longest NFL careers to date.
Drafted in the seventh round by the Buffalo Bills in 1982, Anderson was released by the team before the regular season started. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the Pittsburgh Steelers picked him up, setting the stage for an exceptional career.
His NFL journey lasted 353 games for a multitude of teams. During his 23 seasons, he donned the jerseys of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans, and San Francisco 49ers.
Anderson garnered 4 Pro Bowls and 2 All-Pro honors during his illustrious career. He also became the only player in NFL history to convert on all of his field goals and extra-point attempts in a single regular season. Anderson’s precision was further exemplified by his impressive conversion rates.
He nailed 80% of his field goals and an astonishing 99.2% of extra points. His numbers speak for themselves. With 538 field goals (third all-time) and 827 extra points (fifth all-time), he’s one of the greatest scorers the league has ever seen.
Anderson’s stellar 1998 season particularly stands out, in which he made 35 field goals in 35 attempts and converted 59 extra points without a single miss. Anderson’s accomplishments secured him a spot on the Steelers All-Time Team in 2007, and the All-Decade teams for both the 1980s and 1990s.
Jeff Feagles (Punter)
Being the only punter on this longest NFL careers list isn’t enough. Jeff Feagles is actually much cooler than that. He never missed a game in his career. 352 straight appearances, good for #5 on the all time list.
And this has helped him become the greatest punter of all time. The numbers don’t lie, the brother had 1,713 punts, with 71,211 punting yards, making him the all-time leader in both categories.
Like many special teams players, Feagles embarked on his NFL journey as an undrafted free agent, signing with the New England Patriots in 1988. Born on March 7, 1966, Feagles played for five different franchises. These included the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, and the New York Giants, where he concluded his illustrious career.
Feagles was a kick returner’s worst nightmare. The “Coffin kick” move, his signature move, became synonymous with precision and strategic punting. He perfected this technique throughout his career, leaving opponents pinned deep in their own territory, with an NFL record 554 career punts inside the 20 yard line.
Throughout his career, Feagles earned two Pro Bowl selections, with an impressive 14-year gap between them. His impact extended beyond personal accolades, as he played a pivotal role in the New York Giants’ Super Bowl victory in 2008.
After winning the Super Bowl at age 44, Feagles just woke up one day and decided he wanted to do something else with his life. Despite just signing a new contract that offseason, Fegles retired after 22 years and 352 straight starts.
Phil Dawson (Kicker)
Phil Dawson enjoyed one of the longest NFL careers to date. But his legacy and impact will be felt much further down the road. That’s because apart from becoming a Cleveland Browns legend, he also forced a rule change.
Born on January 23, 1975, Dawson defied age and maintained his prowess well into his mid-40s. He played a total of 305 games, which was good enough for him to be top 10 all-time in NFL games played. Playing from 1999 to 2018, Dawson contributed to three different franchises.
As an undrafted free agent in 1998, he was a practice squad member for both the Raiders and Patriots. Failing to make a regular-season appearance for either team, the Browns took a shot on him.
It was there with the Cleveland Browns that he truly made his mark, becoming the team’s all-time leader in field goals in his 14 years with the franchise. In 2010, Dawson surpassed the legendary Lou Groza in this regard, solidifying his place in Browns’ history.
Upon joining the San Francisco 49ers, Dawson proved he could kick well into the latter stages of his career. In 2013, he set a personal record by making 27 consecutive field goals. Over the course of his career, Dawson was named to 2 All-Pro teams and one Pro Bowl.
Dawson etched his name in NFL history with the introduction of the “Phil Dawson Rule” in 2007. Then, his 51-yard kick to tie a game with Baltimore hit the post, went through the uprights, but bounced off the stanchion and came back onto the field of play. Initially ruled as no good, the referees reversed the call, leading to a Browns victory.
This rule now allows for the review of a field goal or extra point attempt that hits the uprights or crossbar.