Pick 6: Some old geezers to watch this season
By BARRY WILNER, AP Pro Football Writer
Anyone who pays attention to the NFL knows that Tom Brady is 41 as he heads into the season. He’s hardly the only geezer, in football terms, still on the field or hoping to be when the season kicks off next month.
Indeed, Brady isn’t even close to the oldest guy suiting up these days. His former teammate in New England, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, is 45.
There are plenty of players currently on rosters who are older than Rams coach Sean McVay, now 32. Hey, that’s in the midst of the prime competing years for most positions.
Here’s a look at six 30-somethings who could be impactful this season. We’re steering away from the kickers, who tend to age a lot more slowly than anyone else.
Drew Brees, Saints quarterback — There are no signs of Brees slowing down at age 39. He’s in the perfect offense, which he knows so well he could probably run it from a rocking chair.
Helping mightily are skill position players such as Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram when he returns from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances, Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., and Benjamin Watson (37 himself).
Also aiding Brees: A defense can’t throw anything at him he hasn’t seen — again and again.
“I understand that I don’t have a whole lot of time left,” says Brees, who’ll be 40 in January and whose contract expires after the 2019 season. “You’ve got to work and have high expectations and sacrifice and do maybe even more now than I ever have.”
Andrew Whitworth, Rams left tackle — Whitworth was a stud for Cincinnati for 11 seasons, but the Bengals must have believed he was through in 2016 because they let him walk as a free agent. Now 36, he comes off an All-Pro first year in which the Rams were dominant on offense.
Despite all those years in the trenches, Whitworth looks as sharp and powerful as the day he came out of LSU in 2006. He has a shot at his first Super Bowl with a supremely talented roster around him.
Julius Peppers, Panthers defensive end — Like Brees, Peppers will someday wind up with a bust in Canton, Ohio. At 38, he’s no longer an every-down player, but he’s an every-day leader.
Peppers can provide ample force as a pass rusher if he’s mixed in efficiently, something Carolina is quite good at with its D-line. That’s essential in the league’s best division, facing Brees and Matt Ryan twice a season.
Peppers was placed on the physically unable to perform list in July, but the Panthers don’t seem too concerned about his availability — or production — when the games count.
Terence Newman, Vikings cornerback — Now this is really impressive: a DB who will be 40 before the season kicks off, yet can handle the speed- and agility-based duties in an increasingly fast-paced game.
Newman enters his 16th pro season — he was the fifth overall selection by Dallas in 2003 — and this will be his fourth year in Minnesota. The league’s oldest defensive player likely will see some time at safety on a game-changing defense. To see any time at all in an NFL secondary at such an advanced age is stunning.
“You have to figure out something else that you want to do, once you get to my age,” Newman said when he re-signed in May. “I think this will be my last year. No matter what happens, this will be it for me.”
Vernon Davis, Redskins tight end — Once among the elite tight ends of the NFL, Davis remains at 34 enough of a force on the field and a positive influence off it to be a factor for Washington. He averaged 15.1 yards a reception for the Redskins a year ago, third best in his distinguished career.
Alex Smith often targets his tight end — Travis Kelce became a star catching Smith’s passes in Kansas City — and Davis knows just about everything about playing the position.
L.P. Ladouceur, Cowboys long snapper — At 37, this is his 14th year with the Cowboys; how many fans would recognize the Canadian in Big D without his jersey on?
Long snappers always are unsung, fitting the cliche of only getting noticed when they mess up. Ladouceur almost never does, and he’s now the longest-tenured Cowboy with Jason Witten retired.
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