While Tom Brady has dominated the NFL for two decades, not even the six-time Super Bowl champion comes close to playing the most games in league history. In fact, the new face of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ranks second at his own position. With thousands of players gracing NFL fields over the years, let’s take a closer look at who has played the most games in NFL history.
Jerry Rice set the pace for NFL players who didn’t kick for a living
When it comes to position players, Jerry Rice set the standard for longevity. Considered in many circles to be the greatest player in NFL history, the San Francisco 49ers icon racked up gaudy statistics across 20 seasons in the league.
Selected 16th overall in the 1985 NFL draft, Rice proved that playing wide receiver does not require elite speed. Rather, he torched defensive backs with precise route-running that helped him post 11 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
Of course, Rice’s prolific play led to plenty of team success. The 10-time first-team All-Pro won three Super Bowl rings with the 49ers before taking his talents to Oakland. In his age-40 season, Rice earned his 13th and final Pro Bowl selection.
By the time he finally called it quits after the 2004 season, Jerry Rice had played in 303 regular-season games. That number tops every other NFL player who did not kick for a living. As for the receiver who ranks second to Rice in games played? That honor is actually shared by Tim Brown and Irving Fryar, both of whom suited up in 255 career games.
Tom Brady is closing in on Brett Favre for most games played by a QB
Pivoting to the most important position in football, Brett Favre played more games than any quarterback in NFL history…for now. Though the Green Bay Packers legend famously flirted with retirement on a few occasions, he finally said goodbye to the game after his age-41 season. Ironically, Favre retired with 302 games played on his resume—just one shy of Jerry Rice.
However, the 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee will likely get passed by Tom Brady next season. The four-time Super Bowl MVP played 285 regular-season games with the New England Patriots before taking his talents to Tampa this offseason. If Brady plays all 16 games this year, he will enter the 2021 season just one game shy of tying Favre’s record for most games played by a quarterback.
Don’t forget that the 43-year-old has also played about 2.5 years worth of playoff games. Brady owns a 30-11 postseason record and will look to add a seventh Super Bowl ring to his collection with the Buccaneers.
Morten Andersen played the most games in NFL history
While Tom Brady should pass Brett Favre and Jerry Rice for most games played by a non-kicker, he stands almost zero chance of climbing all the way to No. 1. Of all the NFL players who have donned a uniform over the years, Morten Anderson takes home the honor of playing the most games in NFL history.
The Denmark native carved out a lengthy career as one of the best kickers in league history. A member of both the 1980s and 1990s All-Decade Teams, Anderson suited up in 382 regular-season games for five NFL franchises.
The former Michigan State star spent the majority of his NFL career with the New Orleans Saints. He earned Pro Bowl honors seven times in 25 years in the league. The lefty connected on 79.7% of his 709 field-goal attempts and missed only 10 extra-points on 859 career attempts.
While Brady would have to play at least five more years to surpass Anderson, his former teammate, Adam Vinatieri, has a much more realistic chance at taking over the top spot. The longtime Indianapolis Colts kicker ranks second on the all-time games played list. Vinatieri would have to play 18 more games to surpass his fellow kicking legend.
However, the 47-year-old struggled mightily in 2019, as he hit just 68% of his field-goal attempts. Based on his age and poor performance last season, it seems unlikely that the Super Bowl hero will unseat Anderson for the most games played in NFL history.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.