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Peyton Manning: We have to cultivate the game that has given us so much

Peter King offers his takes on some of the biggest news this week in the NFL, including the Colts losing Carson Wentz and Quentin Nelson, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on the upcoming season and more.

Peyton Manning delivered an all-time Hall of Fame speech, spending the first minute of his 9-minute speech making fun of the strict 8-minute time limit enshrinees faced this year.

“When I was playing for the Colts and there were just a few seconds on the play clock and we needed the ball snapped quickly, I would yell, ‘Hurry! Hurry!’ to my center Jeff Saturday. He would immediately snap me the ball,” Manning said. “Tonight’s speech is an all-time Hurry! Hurry! The 2021 induction class would like to thank those previous inductees who gave long-winded acceptance speeches, forcing us to have a whooping 6 minutes to recap our long careers. I want to give a special thanks to my old rival Ray Lewis for being here tonight. Ray just finished giving his speech that started in 2018. Next year, the acceptance speeches will probably shrink to 4 minutes, and speaking of rivals, my good friend Tom Brady is here tonight. By the time Tom Brady is inducted in his first year of eligibility in the year 2035, he’ll only have time to post his acceptance speech on his Instagram account.”

Manning, 45, headlined the Class of 2021 on Sunday night.

He talked about the busts speaking to each other and described a dream he had of playing a game with the Hall of Famers.

Manning ended his speech challenging everyone to make the game better.

“As members of this honored class, we have a responsibility to make our game stronger from the core playground to the most celebrated stadiums,” Manning said. “During the past few years, the game of football has been challenged by an explosion of sports and entertainment options, safety concerns, erupting social justice issues and a world-wide pandemic. Displaced fans has taken on an entirely new meaning as our stadiums have been shut down and fans shut out. We certainly shouldn’t walk away now. When we leave this stage tonight, it is no longer about us. It is about cultivating the game that has given so much to us. It’s about nurturing football to live and thrive another day, another year, another decade, another generation. It’s about guaranteeing that kids everywhere can learn, bond, grow and have fun with every flag pulled, every tackle made, every pass thrown, every run, block, sack and touchdown scored.

“The audience here tonight is made up of diehard fans who feel football deep in your bones. Now, we may have ignited the fire, but you, you have fanned the flames, and inevitably those flames will be whipped by the winds of change, but they don’t need to smolder. The future of this game is ours to shape. We just need to take tomorrow on our shoulders as readily as we donned our pads before each game. Let this moment become a cherished memory, and then remember, a legacy is only worthwhile when there’s a future to fuel. God bless you and God bless football.”