Can Patriots QB Tom Brady play forever?

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady holds up the game ball after leading his team to a 35-31 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday in an NFL divisional playoff football game. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

After leading his team back from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to defeat the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, Tom Brady will start in his ninth AFC Championship Game this weekend against the Indianapolis Colts.

Just ignore for a second what you might think of Brady’s looks and modeling gigs or his marriage to supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Current and former teammates say that he lives to play football. A recent article in Sports Illustrated illustrates just how far Tom Brady will go to play it forever.

Brady is 37 years old. He was the second-oldest starting quarterback in the league this season behind Peyton Manning. If he wins Sunday and again two weeks later in Glendale, Ariz., he will become the second-oldest quarterback to win the Super Bowl. John Elway won back-to-back Super Bowls at age 37 and 38.

Since Elway’s last victory, only four of the last 15 quarterbacks to win the big game have been 30 or older.

Evan Horowitz of The Boston Globe looked at some of the quarterbacks who have played and excelled in their 30s. While most signal callers peak in their mid-20s, Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Brett Favre and others have largely performed better later in their careers. These aging stars experience no real drop in completion percentage, although their passes are generally shorter and they throw more interceptions.

Still, Brady is approaching an age where he shouldn’t have more than a year or two left — at best. Only a handful of quarterbacks have played an NFL game after turning 40. Why would he believe — and Brady apparently does believe it — that he can play many years from now?

A look at the dedication to his body and mind might provide answers.

Brady runs his own rehab facility next to his Gillette Stadium home. The center features Brady’s business partner Alex Guerrero, a guru in Chinese medicine.

Every element of Brady’s health, including his workouts, is planned years ahead. Guerrero might help Brady increase muscle mass one season and emphasize another conditioning principle the next.

The California native religiously follows a diet regimen, eating some foods during the winter and others during the summer. He focuses on alkaline foods rather than acidic ones, consuming foods like hummus and avocado-based ice cream.

Since he struggles to relax after games and practices, he performs exercises to “de-stimulate” his brain in order to fall asleep by 9 p.m. and wake up spontaneously.

He uses regular brain exercises to help improve his memory and process information quicker.

Even on vacation, he sticks to his schedule. Wake up. Work out. Spend time with his family. Take a scheduled nap. Work out. Eat healthy foods. Avoid alcohol. Go to bed early.

After a game, he goes to his facility for treatment and to consult his neuropsychologist. Since his schedule is so detailed and planned well into the future, he continues his workouts through the playoffs — even if his Patriots are knocked out.

“You’ll hear people say ‘football doesn’t define me,’” Guerrero told SI’s Greg Bishop. Brady is different. “Football isn’t what Tom does — football is Tom. This is who he is.”

Brady has been selected to the Pro Bowl nine times. He was won the league MVP twice and Super Bowl MVP twice. He has won three Super Bowl championships. A victory Sunday would give him an opportunity to win his fourth Super Bowl ring.

To get that chance, Brady will have to defeat a former teammate on those championship Patriots teams — kicker Adam Vinatieri. At age 41, Vinatieri is the oldest player in the NFL.

Honestly, no one can really know if all of Brady’s efforts will really help him play longer, but they certainly won’t hurt. That dedication to preserve his body and improve his mind is essential to continue to succeed in a sport that takes a toll on most players many years earlier.

Dr. David Geier is an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston. For more information on football injuries and other sports medicine topics, check out his website at drdavidgeier.com.