New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady isn’t going anywhere soon and might play until he’s 50 if his body holds up. Perhaps another day he can join the distinguished group of players to call it a career after winning a championship.
In Super Bowl 51, one Atlanta Falcon who’s played nearly as long Brady, future Hall of Fame candidate Dwight Freeney, will be trying to spin his way to sacking TB12.
"I don't even think about [retirement] until the year is over," the defensive end told reporters. "It usually happens a month or two after the season. I sit there, feel this leg, feel this arm, feel this knee and see where I'm at mentally."
If the Falcons do prevail, that certainly would be a nice way to go out, as these others greats can attest.
Peyton Manning -- Denver Broncos, Super Bowl 50
Although he was broken down physically in his final season, “The Sheriff,” who most people didn’t even know was called the Sheriff until 2015, managed to ride off into the sunset at age 39 after the Broncos defense smothered the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Manning kept us in suspense for a month after 50, though, announcing his retirement on March 7. "I've fought a good fight. I've finished my football race and after 18 years, it's time” he said. “God bless all of you and God bless football."
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Ray Lewis -- Baltimore Ravens, Super Bowl XLVII
In January 2013 after 17 seasons, Lewis, told his teammates that “this will be my last ride,” referring to the upcoming playoffs. Lewis had missed much of the season after tearing his triceps in October but managed to summons his old dude strength, contributing 29 tackles in the playoffs that finished with a Ravens title. Longtime Ravens teammate, center Matt Birk, also called it a career after the season.
Michael Strahan -- New York Giants, Super Bowl XLII
The mighty defensive end’s war cry was “Stomp You Out” during Big Blue’s underdog title run in 2007 that culminated with a 17-14 victory over New England -- the Patriots’ first loss of the season. Finishing sixth on the all-time sacks list with 141.5, Strahan decided to hang it up that June, saying, "It's time, I'm done." He's not done working, of course, as Strahan juggles about seven different jobs from game show host to football analyst on "FOX NFL Sunday."
Jerome Bettis -- Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl XL
“I played this game for a championship” Bettis, aka The Bus, announced after the Steelers claimed the Lombardi Trophy over Seattle. “I'm a champion, and I think the Bus' last stop is here in Detroit.” Great way to go out -- speaking in the third-person -- for the sixth-leading rusher in NFL history with 13,662 yards.
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John Elway -- Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XXXIII
Elway went out on top of the top, closing a Hall of Fame career in storybook fashion with championships in Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII after coming up short in three earlier title games. At age 37, Elway helped secure that first title with reckless disregard for his own body body in the famous “helicopter play” against Green Bay and then in his final career game he won the Super Bowl MVP with 336 passing yards with one passing and one rushing touchdown in a 34-19 victory over the Falcons.
Elway’s Broncos teammate, linebacker Seth Joyner (1056 career tackles, 52 sacks and 24 interceptions), played minimally in 1998 but did get to retire with a ring as well.
Gary Zimmerman -- Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XXXII
The 6-foot-6, 300-pound Hall of Fame left tackle didn’t stick around for the Broncos' encore but certainly retired on top, calling it a career after 12 great seasons and earning three First-Team All-Pro nods along the way.
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Ted Hendricks -- Los Angeles Raiders, Super Bowl XVIII
The Hall of Fame linebacker known as “The Mad Stork” has a pretty awesome and diverse trophy case, picking up his first championship ring with the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V and then three more with the Raiders in XI, XV and finally XVIII in a 38-9 shellacking of the Redskins. Hendricks started all 16 games in his final season at age 36.
Mel Renfro -- Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl XII
The defensive back and return man finished his Hall of Fame career with 52 interceptions and two Super Bowl wins, the second coming in 1977. In his final year, Renfro moved to nickel corner and saw the field less but did manage to record one last tackle in the Super Bowl. Renfro rode into the sunset with fellow lifelong Cowboy and three-time All-Pro left tackle Ralph Neely.
Forrest Gregg -- Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl XII
Yep, one more great got to bookend his career with a championship. After spending 14 seasons in Titletown (five NFL championships and two Super Bowls), Gregg certainly wasn’t starving for a ring, but who doesn’t want one more -- even if it's with another team? The Hall of Fame lineman also went on to coach the Browns, Bengals and Packers.