Although Peyton Manning protested on Monday night that he doesn’t know if he will retire after the Super Bowl, evidence from his private conversations indicates that the 39-year-old quarterback will indeed call it quits after Sunday’s game.
Monday night, queried by NFL Media’s Marshall Faulk as to whether the Super Bowl would be his last game, Manning asserted he hadn’t made up his mind:
One thing I think I’ve done well this season, this team has done well this season, is stay in the moment, focus on the task at hand, take it one week at a time. There’s about 10 other cliches you could use right there, but it truly has served me well in the unique season that has occurred this year with the injuries — and it’s just been different for me. Not looking too far ahead, not looking too far back has really helped me. I am excited about this week and looking forward to playing in this game. And I’m going to focus on that and deal with all of the other stuff after this.
Manning added, “I’m certainly honored to be here. I feel like I have a good understanding of the significance of playing in the 50th Super Bowl. It’s a unique and special opportunity — and obviously we want to take advantage of it.”
When he was pressed about his brief post-game conversation with Patriots coach Bill Belichick after the AFC Championship Game in which he said, “Hey, listen, this might be my last rodeo. So, it sure has been a pleasure,” Manning replied:
That was not pre-planned. It was a spontaneous reaction. Sometimes you just want to tell someone something man to man — it’s better than via text or a handwritten letter or seeing them at a banquet. I told Brady the same thing previous to telling Belichick. And I understand there’s people out there, but what I said is true — this could be it and I’m aware it could be it. I wanted to tell both of them. I really have enjoyed these games, it’s been part of my football life. … Hey — Brady’s gonna play until he’s 70, Belichick is gonna coach till he’s 90, maybe I hit the fountain of youth in the next couple months and play the next 10 years. Maybe we play in 10 more championships against each other. But in case we don’t, I took the time to shake their hands, look them in the eye and I’m glad I did it. It was important to me that I knew that.
Yet NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Monday, “The reality is he let the cat out of the bag a little bit. I also know he has told close friends that he expects this to be his last game as well.”
In early January, Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post interviewed Manning, concluding with the reporter asking, “Does this feel like your last rodeo?” Manning answered, “I’d be lying if I said I’m not thinking about that.”