Patriots

Giardi in Denver: 'Very different' year for Manning

peyton-manning-1-3-2016.jpg

Giardi in Denver: 'Very different' year for Manning

DENVER -- Peyton Manning shuffled to the podium Wednesday at the Broncos posh practice facility in Englewood, Colorado, with an orange and blue visor. He looked like the guy you’ve seen all these many years, save for a few less strands of hair.

But there was something missing this time: that air of cockiness that Manning has always had, although not always delivered on, at least this time of year.

See, the Manning before us knows what we know: that the countless surgeries on his neck have sapped him of that golden right arm that has recorded more passing yards than any quarterback in NFL history. And you could hear that when the Broncos quarterback was asked if he could have ever envisioned this scenario, playing in the AFC Championship, during that stretch when he was rehabbing from his foot injury and watching Brock Osweiler go 5-2 in his place.

“I really tried to kind of take it one week at a time, stay in the moment and try not to get too far ahead,“ he said. “Try not to assume anything, any type of finality or any type of, 'Hey, this is what’s going to happen in three weeks or four weeks.’ I’ve truly kind of followed the old cliche, 'one week at a time’ and tried to stay patient, and I think that’s served me well, because there’s no question a lot has happened this season that’s been very different for me than any other season I’ve played in 18 years.”

Manning was a spectator when the Broncos ended the Patriots' shot at an undefeated season back in week 12, joking that he watched the game with another injured veteran— DeMarcus Ware—in the equipment room, noting that Ware is “a big time second-guesser” and “the hot dogs aren’t bad,” but “I’d much prefer to be on the playing field.”

There was no guarantee that would happen, and, in many ways, the Broncos are between a rock and a hard place, turning to the surefire Hall of Famer even if he can’t run the offense that head coach Gary Kubiak favors. Yes, Manning guided the Broncos to a Divisional Round playoff win over the Steelers last weekend, but he did so without throwing a touchdown pass. In fact, Brady has thrown more TDs in Denver this year (3) than Manning himself (1).

At 39, Manning has become a secondary piece, rather than the focal point he was for every season prior. A game manager, dare I say? But not in the mold of KC’s Alex Smith. Rather, this is a player that makes Kubiak cringe somewhere in that stoic body, realizing that every throw is now an adventure.

“You have to understand situations,” Kubiak told me. “You have to, hopefully, get your guys in the best possible situations on game day to be successful. I think that comes with playing the position. There are certain games that get to a certain point where managing the football game the right way is the key to win.”

Manning’s brain is now his best weapon, but that arm will fail him again. And Manning knows it. He's just hopeful that he can summon enough in the big moments to get the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

“At some point in the critical drive in the fourth quarter or on a goal line stand, somebody on defense, on offense or on special teams has stepped up and made a play. That’s kind of what has gotten us to this point and that is what you have to have, certainly in the postseason, and for any chance for us to have to play against these guys.”

 

Brady to Oprah on Belichick: 'We don't agree on absolutely everything'

Brady to Oprah on Belichick: 'We don't agree on absolutely everything'

Most of the highlights of Tom Brady's sit-down with Oprah Winfrey were released here and here last week before the interview was broadcast Sunday morning on Winfrey's OWN channel.

Also, in the hour-long interview, the Patriots quarterback was asked by Winfrey, amid an offseason filled with reports of tension between him and coach Bill Belichick, “Is there something going on with you and Belichick?”

“Umm, no. I mean, I love him," Brady said. "I love that he is an incredible coach, mentor for me. He’s pushed me in a lot of ways. Like everything, we don’t agree on absolutely everything, but that’s relationships.”

When Winfrey asked about his "separate training place" - the TB12 Sports Therapy Center next to Gillette Stadium that Brady and business partner and trainer Alex Guerrero have run for five years - Brady said he wouldn't characterize it as separate.

“No, I wouldn’t say that,” said Brady, who stayed away from Patriots voluntary workouts this spring, has worked out on his own with teammates, but did report for mandatory mini-camp June 5-7. “I probably do some of my own techniques a little differently than the rest of the team. The team, I would say, like most teams, is very systematic in their approach. What I learned, I guess, is different than some of the things that are systematic, but that work for me.”

Brady said he's talked about those techniques with Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Belichick restricted Guerrero's access to the Patriots sideline and team flights last season. 

“It’s nothing that I don’t talk about with my coach and owner,” Brady said. “It is what I want to do and is what I need to be the best player I can be. Hopefully, you can support that.”

More highlights from the Brady interview: 

On why he gave up his court fight in the Deflategate case and served his NFL-imposed four-game suspension:

"Too much anxiety," Brady said. "And I realized I couldn't win." Watch that clip here: 

How this Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in February was a little easier to take than his others, watch here: 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

James Harrison on Patriots' culture: 'I didn't have a problem with it’

James Harrison on Patriots' culture: 'I didn't have a problem with it’

As adversaries and former players openly wonder if the football culture in Foxboro is "fun" enough, recently-retired Pittsburgh Steelers legend James Harrison is asking, why does it matter?

In an interview with CBS Sports Network earlier this week, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year reflected on the final stop of his 15-year career, the Patriots, who signed him late in the 2017 regular season after Pittsburgh released him, as insurance for New England as they geared up for their run to Super Bowl LII.

The biggest takeaway from his time with the Patriots?

"Discipline. That’s the big thing," the five-time Pro Bowler said. "They’re not going to ask you to do anything that is outside of what you’re capable of doing. And it’s, you learn the system and you go out there and you play it. And like I said, it's very regimented, so if you’re a guy that’s not used to discipline, you’re not going to like it there."

Harrison said it was even stricter than his years with former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, with whom he won his first Super Bowl in 2006.

"Cowher wasn't as regimented as Bill [Belichick] was," Harrison said. "Like I say, I didn’t have a problem with it. You know, I enjoyed my time there, you know, I thanked them for the opportunity they gave me to continue to play."

Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson has repeatedly mocked the Patriots since his team them in Super Bowl LII, calling them "arrogant" and a "fear-based organization", even telling the Pardon My Take podcast, "I'd much rather have fun and win a Super Bowl than be miserable and win five Super Bowls."

Meanwhile, 49ers defensive end Cassius Marsh, who was released after eight games with the Pats in 2017, says he hated his time in New England and didn't have fun, telling the San Francisco Chronicle, "I confronted [Belichick] about all the things that were going on. I won't get into detail, but it was B.S. things they were doing. It just wasn't a fan."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE