THIBODAUX — Great NFL quarterbacks occasionally hang around too long seeking to add one last Super Bowl ring to their legacy, but Peyton Manning promises he won’t be one of them.
Manning may not have a retirement date in mind yet, as he’s repeated in interviews throughout this offseason, his 17th in the pros. But this much the Newman High School grad and New Orleans native knows: He won’t hesitate to file his papers as soon as working out at sweltering training camps and throwing around at practice become a drag.
He won’t think twice about calling it quits if ever he feels his level of play impedes his team’s success.
“It’s easy to enjoy the game, but do you still enjoy the ... training?” Manning said Friday during a media session at his family’s camp for young quarterbacks, being held at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. “I still enjoy all of those things, still feel like I can help a team.
“But as soon as I can’t help as much or am not as effective a player, that’s when it’s time to stop.”
Of course, it could be quite a while before that’s the case, so anyone waiting around for that should grab a seat. And exhale.
Manning chatted with reporters Friday, less than seven months after delivering the most productive season ever in the NFL. He set single-season records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdown passes (55), captured an unprecedented fifth league MVP trophy and led the Denver Broncos to Super Bowl XLVIII.
No one covering the NFL has forgotten the humbling 43-8 defeat suffered by Manning and the Broncos at the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, when Seattle’s top-ranked defense scored as many points as Denver’s No. 1 offense. Manning, though, has unsurprisingly moved past it.
It was a process for Manning. It started by deciding at the last minute to play at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am tournament alongside PGA golfer Webb Simpson, which teed off four days after Denver’s Super Bowl pummeling.
Manning’s father, Archie (quarterback for the New Orleans Saints from 1971-81), called that the “smartest thing” his son has ever done.
“You lose a big football game ... you better not get over it immediately,” Archie Manning said Friday. “But ... you can’t sit around and mope.”
Then, Peyton Manning focused his energy on familiarizing himself with some new teammates picked up in free agency: defensive end DeMarcus Ware, a four-time All-Pro; cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward, 2013 Pro Bowlers; rookie cornerback Bradley Roby, a highly rated first-round draft choice; and wideout Emmanuel Sanders, who notched career highs of six touchdown catches and 740 yards last season.
They were a reaction to the merciless lessons the Seahawks taught the Broncos in the winter.
“We addressed some ... needs in the offseason via free agency and the draft,” said Manning, who won his lone Super Bowl ring with the Indianapolis Colts more than seven years ago. “We worked hard this offseason trying to get on the same page, trying to be a better team in 2014.”
Manning was asked whether the new personnel made the Broncos a better team than the one that came up short in February. His reply was cautious.
“It’s hard to say,” Manning said, in part. “I think it takes time to develop that chemistry and rapport with your new teammates. ... I don’t think you can rush those things.”
He was less reserved explaining that he’s been preparing himself for the 2014 campaign with the same intensity that he has for each one that’s preceded it. Being around the up-and-coming youth at the Manning Passing Academy each summer as he keeps in NFL shape is good motivation, he said.
“It is 100 degrees out here, and these kids can throw all day; work out all day; they never get tired, they never complain,” he said. “It’s a great reminder of how lucky you are to still be playing the game.”
If Manning’s historic season at age 37 last year is any indication, such an approach isn’t showing any signs of rust, even if reporters haven’t been able to resist lobbing retirement questions to him since he missed the entire 2011 campaign because of multiple neck surgeries.
“(Peyton) doesn’t seem to be slowing down,” said Manning’s younger brother, Eli, who’s quarterbacked the New York Giants to two Super Bowls. “He loves what he’s doing. ... He seems to keep getting better — the older he gets, the better he gets. It’s fun and impressive to watch.”
“Anytime you’re voted on something by your peers, players you play against ... players who have that ability, I’m very humbled by that.” — Peyton Manning, on recently being voted No. 1 on the NFL Network’s Top 100 list, voted on by league players.