The darling of this Super Bowl is pretty clearly Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. The media horde has been following him in droves, and that continued Wednesday during access on the Cornucopia Majesty Ship (as a side note, it is definitely interesting trying to participate in interviews on a swaying boat).
Anyways, here are some notes from Manning:
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— Early on, Manning addressed the Seahawks public courtship of him a couple years ago, when he was a free agent: “You can only pick one team to go play for. It reminded me of college somewhat, that you would like to play for a lot of teams. Go play for this team for a year, maybe give this team four or five games and bounce around. It’s not the way it works; you have to pick a team. That seems like a long time ago, that free agency, recruiting, if you will. I remember it wasn’t very private. It was quite a public spectacle. I could have done without that.”
— Manning also recalled his history with Pete Carroll, which included playing against him and the Patriots in the old AFC East: “He actually did a pretty cool thing for me. One time, I was in Los Angeles during the summer in June, and I had some commitment there. I needed to throw, and I needed to work out. I called over to Southern Cal’s football offices, and got ahold of Coach Carroll. I asked if his receivers and quarterbacks were throwing that day, and could I come over and join the throwing session because I was getting ready for training camp. He gave me the time, and I got over there at 3 o’clock. I just wanted to join right in and throw whatever routes Southern Cal was throwing. Coach Carroll had eight receivers, four tight ends, four running backs – all stretched, lathered up and ready to go when I got there.
“I said, ‘What routes do you want to run?’ They said, ‘No, Coach Carroll said we are going to throw whatever routes you want to run. This is going to be your workout.’ That is about as good a treatment as you can get for a visitor to a different team. I really had a neat day throwing. I didn’t get to see him though, and I’m not even sure he was in town. He set that up for me. Of course my allegiance is always to the University of Tennessee, but on that day, Southern Cal helped me out. Coach Carroll is an outstanding coach.”
— In another fun anecdote, Manning addressed the claim that in college he would review game tape the same night of the game. He said that was a little bit of misinformation, and that really he would go out to celebrate with his teammates — like any other guy — and would return home at about 2 a.m. to catch the replay on television.
— The legacy question has come up often this week, which Manning said made him think about it. He had answer this time, as opposed to deflecting it. He said he just wants to be remembered as a guy who “played my butt off” for his team every game, not something to be defined by wins or championships.
— Manning did meet Tuesday night with his brother, Eli, the quarterback of the New York Giants. (Eli, of course, won a Super Bowl in Indianapolis when Peyton was with the Colts): “It’s always special to have a chance to be with him. I met his second daughter for the first time; Lucy, my niece. She was born right before training camp. I had never met her. I enjoyed that time as an uncle last night.”
— In a topic perhaps more suited for Media Day, Manning noted that he was a big Sopranos fan, and when the show ended, he had a big void left since Sunday night was his main night to watch television. So what show satisfies that need now? Broadwalk Empire, though he noted the seasons are so short it only gets him to Week 10 or 12.
— Manning was asked about his neck surgery, which has stayed somewhat relevant after a report a while back that the issue could force an early retirement (Manning has stated multiple times this week he has no intentions of retiring after Sunday’s Super Bowl). When asked how scary the situation was, “All surgeries, in my opinion, are serious. A lot of people say it’s not a major surgery unless it is your own. When you are dealing with a neck surgery, I think it is pretty serious stuff. My brother, Cooper, dealt with neck surgeries and injuries as a high school and college player, and had to give up football. That made a big impact on my life. I remember at the time, when Cooper got injured, they did a test on me and Eli. I would have been a junior in high school and Eli would have been a sixth-grader, or something. They said our necks weren’t picture perfect and didn’t look ideal, but they’re stable enough to keep playing football. Cooper had to give up playing football. In some ways, when I had my neck problems, I thought maybe I had been on borrowed time this entire time.
“I was fortunate to have 20 years of health to play football. If that was going to be the end of it because of a neck injury, I really, believe it or not, had a peace about it. I’ve had this unbelievable string of health to play 20 years of football – high school, college and pro ball – and I was fortunate for that. Once I had the surgery and went to the doctors for the checkups, I remember I had a physical around this time when the Giants and Patriots were playing in the Super Bowl, and the doctor said, ‘Your neck is secure.’ He said, ‘I’d let you play Super Bowl Sunday and if you were my own son, I’d let you play.’ As soon as the doctor told me that, that was the end of it for me on the neck discussion. Now, it was simply a matter of performance. Could I get my strength back to play quarterback at the level I thought a team deserved?”