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This Is 40: Andy Lee Still Punting Impressively For Cardinals

Veteran joins Brady as only 40-year-olds in NFL

Cardinals punter Andy Lee turned 40 on Thursday, yet is coming off his best season with the team in 2021.
Cardinals punter Andy Lee turned 40 on Thursday, yet is coming off his best season with the team in 2021.

Andy Lee spent the offseason pondering retirement after 19 seasons in the NFL.

It wasn't the first time the punter did this. But he contemplated it more seriously than ever.

Lee felt 50-50 about the choice while enjoying time with his family. He weighed what would happen if he retired or continued to suit up on Sundays.

"I feel God blessed me with my talents," Lee said. "My wife was like, 'As long as you can continue to do it, I think it's a disservice not to continue to play.' "

So here Lee is, turning 40 years old on Thursday, ready to play another season as the Cardinals have their preseason opener in Cincinnati on Friday.

When the regular season begins, Lee will join Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady as the two active players in their 40s. He will become just the fourth Cardinal to play in their 40s, joining Hall of Famer Jim Thorpe (1928), Trey Junkin (2002), and Phil Dawson (2017) on the list.

"It's an honor to be able to play this game as long as I have," Lee said. "I've worked hard for many years to care for myself and do the right things."

When the 49ers drafted Lee in the sixth round in 2004, his first goal was to make it through his three-year contract with the team. He improved, eventually into one of the better punters in the league, and aimed for 10 seasons in the league before it turned into 15. Soon, it became a year-by-year approach.

The Cardinals' assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers coached for the 49ers when the team drafted Lee 18 years ago. Lee earned three Pro Bowls and three All-Pro selections with the franchise.

"When we were evaluating Andy, we noticed how his leg is incredible fast," Rodgers said. "It was then and still is now. There was a lot of distance going on with his punts. He came into the league with great hands and was a great holder from day one.

"As a young guy, he worked through some things, though he was still good, and hit his stride going into Year 3. The consistency he's punted with all throughout his career is something all specialists strive to have."

Since joining the Cardinals in 2017, Lee's 47.6 punting average ranks No.1 in the league and represents the highest career total in team history.

His longevity -- he was college teammates at Pitt with Larry Fitzgerald before coming out in the draft together -- is partly obvious, since his position doesn't require him to get touched often.

But Lee has also tried to save his body through his diet, one filled with lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. A good diet most of the time, something Lee acknowledged with a smile.

"I'm not getting rid of Doritos," Lee said. "I love them. I also eat a ton of ketchup, which is a lot of sugar. But with Doritos, I eat a bag once a day."

Through all the good Lee has experienced in his Cardinals tenure, he said their 2021 playoff appearance -- his first with the team -- is the most gratifying moment.

"It had been a while since I was in the postseason before that happened," Lee said. "I thought it was a glimmer of hope of getting to the Super Bowl because when you make the playoffs, all you have to do is win, and you're in the Super Bowl. Hopefully, we can build on that and make a run this year."

Lee has never been a birthday person because it's always occurred during camp, dating back to turning 18 as a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh. So the day has morphed into nothing special.

But the veteran understands the magnitude of the upcoming one and how it will impact the finishing touches of his NFL career.

"It means I'm officially old," Lee said with a laugh. "But I think it means a lot to show my kids what you can achieve if you work hard and do what you're supposed to do."

Images from 2022 Cardinals Training Camp at State Farm Stadium