Father Time is in the greatest NFL battle of his long, undefeated career.
Tom Brady turns 40 years old in August, showing zero signs of the precipitous cliff dive that has befallen other players so late in their careers.
The NFL world has been waiting for years for Brady's gradual decline to take effect, only to be humbled by the quarterback's spectacular consistency and MVP-caliber performances.
If the New England Patriots' signal-caller is to hit the wall at 40, his fellow players won't have seen it coming.
Brady was voted by hundreds of his peers as the NFL's top player entering the season in this year's edition of The Top 100 Players of 2017, unveiled Monday on NFL Network.
Given Brady's performance at 39, it's not a shock opponents and teammates alike believe the greatest quarterback of all time will continue to stiff-arm Father Time in 2017. It's a return to the top of the list, where Brady took the top spot in the inaugural 2011 season. Since then he's finished 4th, 4th, 3rd, 3rd, and 2nd, respectively in the players' voting. No one comes close to garnering that consistent respect around the NFL.
Brady's 2016 season belied his age.
After serving a four-game suspension to start last season, Brady scorched the NFL on a 15-game stretch that was arguably the finest of his illustrious career. Brady threw 28 touchdowns to a measly two interceptions in the regular season. He capped off the year by averaging 379 passing yards in three playoff tilts, which culminated in the greatest Super Bowl comeback in NFL history.
Brady's career achievements are well-chronicled. He's won five Lombardi Trophies, four Super Bowl MVPs, two NFL MVPs, and voted to 12 Pro Bowls.
Brady reached a stage of his career few players dream of entering, and during which even fewer excel.
Only three quarterbacks in NFL history have thrown for more than 2,600 yards at age 40 or older, per Pro Football Reference, Brett Favre (40), Warren Moon (41) and Vinny Testaverde (41). With the Patriots stockpiling offensive talent this offseason, Brady is poised to blow past Favre's age-40 season of 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Time is eventually the master of us all. It grinds down mountains, distorts memories, makes ancient the modern and consumes all careers.
Even for an electrolyte-guzzling health nut with a generational competitive edge like Brady, Father Time will ultimately win out. But not yet. Not yet.