- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - There’s something stunning happening on Michael Vick’s head.

You can’t see them from far away, but up close, tiny gray hairs are starting to emerge - color-sapped reminders that the New York Jets quarterback is no longer the speedy youngster fresh out of Virginia Tech.

He turned 34 in June, making him “old” in today’s NFL. During minicamp in June, Vick even had a young fullback address him as “sir” in the huddle.

“That baffled me a little bit,” Vick said at the time with a chuckle. “I’m not that old and I have to reiterate that over and over again.”

But in the time-warped world of professional sports, anything past 30 opens conversations about players being past their prime. If you get to 35, well, then the geriatric jokes start flying.

Rocking chairs and walking canes. “Grandpa” and “Graybeard.”

“I think so much of it’s a mindset,” said 35-year-old Saints quarterback Drew Brees. “If I tell myself I am 25, I’m 25 and that’s honest to God. That’s my mindset. I can play for another 10 years. That would be my goal, but I’m taking it one year at a time. There’s no reason why I couldn’t do that.”

He would be a rarity in the NFL, where the average age ranges between 25 and 27. The lifespan of most careers in the league lasts somewhere between 3 1/2 and almost seven years, meaning retirement comes at an age when people in most other professional fields are just getting started.

For several players, though, age is an opponent to defy.

The Colts’ 41-year-old Adam Vinatieri is the NFL’s oldest active player. While he might not have the leg he did while leading the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles and another with Indianapolis as “Automatic Adam,” he’s still one of the league’s most reliable kickers.

“As long as my body’s feeling healthy, I can’t see why I can’t continue to play,” Vinatieri said when he re-signed with the Colts for two years in March.

It’s likely no one will ever get close to George Blanda, who was still kicking at 48 for the Raiders in 1975. But there are plenty of other kickers and punters who are nearly right there with Vinatieri.

San Francisco’s Phil Dawson (39), Atlanta’s Matt Bryant (39), Arizona’s Jay Feely (38), Buffalo’s Brian Moorman (38), Houston’s Shane Lechler (37) and Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski (36) are among those booting away Father Time.

There are plenty of other big-time stars at the so-called “skill” positions who are also still thriving. Just look at Denver’s Peyton Manning (38) and New England’s Tom Brady (37), who are still setting passing records, along with Brees, nearly every season.

“Peyton Manning was what, 37 years old last year and arguably (had) his best year in his career,” Brees said. “Brett Favre arguably had his best year of his career when he was 40. There have been perfect examples of the near history that prove that you can continue to play at a very, very high level. I think there are lots of things that go into that.”

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