Ronde Barber, Buccaneers
There's no question that playing in the NFL is a young man's gig.
It takes youth, vitality and strength to get the job done going against the best and the brightest 16 times in 17 weeks.
There are, however, those who have beaten the age curve in professional football and who are playing at or near the top of their games when others of their age have already called it quits.
Here's our list of 10 of the oldies but goodies.
Ronde Barber, Buccaneers
The 36-year-old Ronde Barber hasn’t missed a start for Tampa since 1999, and he hasn’t missed many tackles during that span, either.
Barber has 41 interceptions and 27 sacks, making him the first player ever to get to 40 interceptions and 25 sacks in a career.
There was some talk in the off-season that the defensive back might not return in 2011, but he seems to be able to cover passes as well as ever and break into the backfield on blitzes like he did four or five years ago when he was at his prime.
Brian Dawkins, Broncos
Critics suggest the 38-year-old Brian Dawkins could be slowing down, but watching him on the field, it doesn’t seem like the defensive back's drop off is much.
He had two sacks in Game 6 against the Dolphins, becoming the ninth oldest player to get two sacks in a game. He’s the oldest defensive back ever to do it.
And he is close to joining Barber in the 40-interception/25-sack club; he has 37 interceptions and 25 sacks.
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
Multiple All-Pro Tony Gonzalez, who has split his career between the Chiefs and the Falcons, continues to dominate his position.
The 35-year-old out of California has the most catches of any tight end in history with 1104 coming into this week.
Gonzalez isn’t just around for name value. He fills a critical need for the Falcons with 35 catches for 380 yards this year.
David Akers, 49ers
The Eagles didn’t bring the 37-year-old David Akers back after he’d had three of the best years of his career in Philadelphia, but the kicker is having the best revenge as the kicker for the 7-1 49ers.
He’s hit on 112 of 132 field goal attempts coming into Sunday in the past 3½ seasons, and he’s hitting on 85 percent of his kicks since 2008.
Matt Turk, Jaguars
A veteran out of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 42-year-old Matt Turk continues to give Jacksonville a weapon on fourth down as one of the league's best punters.
He’s never averaged under 40 yards a punt for a season in his career, and while he’s in danger of having that streak end, he’s at 39.7 yards coming into Sunday, so he’s just one decent game away from getting back to the area where he’s most familiar.
Matt Birk, Ravens
Six-time Pro Bowl performer Matt Birk made some headlines when he was fined (it was later rescinded) for taking the newly obligatory microphone off his shoulder pads in a game last month.
But the center continues to perform at a superior level in his third season with Baltimore. The Harvard product hasn’t missed a start since 2004, when he was playing for the Vikings.
When Charles Woodson played with the Raiders from 1998-2005, he was clearly one of the better cornerbacks in the game.
Since moving to the Packers, however, he’s risen to a higher level, making the Pro Bowl each of the last three seasons.
And this time around the 35-year-old he has five interceptions in his first seven games, meaning his personal single-season record of nine interceptions is in jeopardy.
London Fletcher, Redskins
London Fletcher, 36. didn’t make it to the Pro Bowl until he was 34 in 2009 and had been playing in the NFL for more than a decade.
The Redskins' linebacker was back there again last year at 35, and he could make it again as he continues to more than earn his keep with Washington.
Casey Wiegmann snaps to Chiefs' Matt Cassel
A veteran out of Iowa, the 36-year-old Casey Wiegmann is in his second tour of duty with the Chiefs, and he continues to be the heart of Kansas City’s offensive line.
He is ranked among the top 10 centers in the league despite his age while providing excellent pass protection for quarterback Matt Cassel.
Ray Lewis, Ravens
They don’t make them much better than the almost legendary Ray Lewis, who has seven first-team All-Pro selections to his credit, and who has made the pro bowl a dozen times, including every year since 2006.
In 16 seasons the 36-year-old linebacker has 40.5 sacks and 31 interceptions, a combination reached by no other player in NFL history.
Lewis, a sure-thing for the Hall of Fame, has two sacks and one interception this year and his 43 tackles give him a chance to finish with 100 or more by season’s end.