The average NFL career spans about three and a half years which makes sense when you consider the physical pounding that these athletes are subjected to on a weekly basis.
But there are a select few who have been able to sustain extremely long and relatively healthy careers because of a multitude of factors including; luck, hard work, genetics and sheer determination.
It should come as no surprise that the majority of these NFL iron-men have put together immensely successful and long careers, because let’s be honest, if you’re not very good you probably won’t be playing very long anyway.
While the biggest factor that makes a player great is his talent, perhaps one of the more overlooked characteristics that most great players possess is their durability, which allows them to consistently be out on the field in situations where less durable players would not.
Of course, we all remember guys like Bo Jackson, Billy Sims, Sterling Sharpe and Gale Sayers, all of whom were supremely talented football players that simply weren’t able to sustain long careers due to serious injuries.
It’s tough to say how the aforementioned players would be remembered had they played full careers, but it’s certainly not out of the question to speculate that the NFL record book might look a lot different than it does today.
During the more than eighty-year history of the NFL, the way the game is played has changed many times and in the year 2010 we are seeing players who are bigger and faster than ever before who throw their bodies around the field with reckless abandon partly because of the advances in protective equipment.
When you combine the increasing size and strength of NFL players with the 16 game regular season, it’s little wonder that many guys suffer serious injuries which cause them to miss substantial amounts of time.
Thus making the feats that the players on this list have accomplished all the more impressive.
A little about the list:
-This list is the most durable NFL players of the last 15 years, so if someone retired before 1996 they won’t be found here.
-Every player on this list needs to have played at least three seasons in the NFL after 1996 which weeds out guys who were simply on the tail ends of their careers from making the list.
-For the purposes of this list I defined durable as players who played for at least 10 seasons that missed very little time due to injury and consistently played at a high level for the majority of their career.
-I also gave more of an advantage to players who played positions which required them to take a pounding over those that played positions who were only hit a couple of times per game, so there won’t be any kickers/punters on the list.
-Finally, I gave more of an advantage to guys who simply played the game of football in a tough and gutsy manner. Enjoy.