SAN JOSE – Peyton Manning didn’t exactly lay his cards on the table regarding his post-Super Bowl plans.
But he tipped his hand a bit toward the very end of his 60-minute media session at the SAP Center in advance of Super Bowl 50.
After deflecting questions throughout his session and stating his focus was “in the moment,” Manning acknowledged, “At some point after the season I’ll have that comprehensive analysis. But I’m at peace with it. Look, I’m a realist. I know there’s talk about the conversation I had with (Bill) Belichick two weeks ago against New England.”
In that brief, postgame embrace, Manning said, “Hey, listen, this might be my last rodeo. So, it sure has been a pleasure.”
Of that exchange, Manning said, “That was not pre-planned. It was a spontaneous reaction. Sometimes you want to tell somebody something man-to-man, it’s better than telling them via text or even a handwritten letter, or seeing them at a banquet and saying, ‘Boy, it sure was great playing against you. I told (Tom) Brady the same thing previous to telling Belichick. I understand there’s people (nearby) but what I said was true. This could be it. I’m aware this could be it and I wanted to tell both of them I really have enjoyed these games. It’s been part of my football life and both of those guys have been part of good for me and not so good for me and so I took the time to tell them.”
Manning then joked about Brady’s own intention to play until he’s fossilized.
“Hey, Brady’s gonna play till he’s 70, Belichick’s gonna coach till he’s 90,” said Manning. “Maybe I hit the fountain of youth in the next month and I play another 10 years. Maybe we play in 10 more championships against each other. But just in case we don’t, I took the time to look them in the eye, man-to-man, shook their hands and I’m glad that I did it because it was important to me that they knew that. There in the moment, face-to-face, man-to-man, that’s all that that meant.”
Manning seemed to swallow hard and need a moment to compose himself after breaking his embrace with Belichick.
I asked him about that reaction.
“Maybe I get to play in 10 more AFC Championships and if I do, eight of them will probably be against the Patriots because I promise you they’ll be there,” said Manning. “I don’t know if it’s having kids or getting old, but I catch myself getting a little more emotional at times. It was an emotional game. You take the snap and every single photographer’s out there, you don’t even get to talk to your own teammates and you’re fighting through. Brady and I usually have a short exchange and people are bumping into you, so I took an extra 30 seconds to shake his hand, look at him in the eye and tell him face-to-face how much respect I have for him. These are things that he knew, but there’s something about telling him face-to-face.”