ERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Peyton Manning would love to go out a champion.
Just, not yet.
Riding off into the Super Bowl sunset with another ring might seem like the perfect ending to a record-breaking, highlight-filled career. But Manning’s not ready to walk away from the game.
Even if his Denver Broncos beat the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
“If I can’t produce, if I can’t help the team, that’s when I’ll stop playing,” Manning said Sunday shortly after the AFC champions arrived at their hotel. “If that’s next year, maybe it is, but I certainly want to continue to keep playing.”
Who could blame him? Manning showed no signs of slowing down this season.
At 37, he set NFL records with 55 touchdown passes and 5,447 yards while leading the league’s top-ranked offense. Now, he’s trying to become the first starting quarterback to win Super Bowls with two teams, an accomplishment that seemed a bit of a long shot after he had two career-threatening neck surgeries two years ago.
“I still enjoy playing football,” Manning said. “I feel a little better than I thought I would at this point coming off that surgery, and I still enjoy the preparation part of it, the important part of it. Everybody enjoys the games, and everybody’s going to be excited to play in the Super Bowl.
“But I think when you still enjoy the preparation, I think you probably still ought to be doing that.”
So, unless Manning’s neck — or his doctor — tells him he’s had enough, he’ll be back next season and maybe more. That’s good news for the Broncos and bad news for opposing defenses.
“Peyton’s been extraordinary,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s had the year that everyone would dream to have. People couldn’t even dream to have the year that Peyton’s had before this season with all the numbers. We’re up against it.”
Manning, at a news conference aboard the Cornucopia Majesty cruise ship docked outside the team hotel, insisted that this won’t be some sort of victory lap to cap his career. Manning has spoken to John Elway, his boss in the Broncos’ front office, who retired after winning the second of consecutive Super Bowls in 1999. He has also talked to former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, who walked away last year after the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers.
They mentioned how great a feeling it is, being able to go out on top, but Manning noted that there is a major difference between their situations and his.
“In talking to Ray Lewis and in talking with John Elway, they couldn’t play anymore,” Manning said. “That was all they had to give, and they truly left it all out there. I certainly had a career change two years ago with my injury and changing teams, so I truly have been kind of on a one-year-at-a-time basis. So, I really have no plans beyond this game. I had no plans coming into this season beyond this year.
“I think that’s the healthy way to approach your career at this stage.”
John Fox will be participating in his second Super Bowl as a head coach, and first since his Carolina Panthers lost to the New England Patriots in the 2004 game. He was sidelined a month earlier this season after needing open-heart surgery, so he knows a few things about quick comebacks.
“Just like I tell players,” he said, “sometimes setbacks are setups for better things to come.”
And even he has been impressed by what Manning has been able to accomplish in two seasons with the Broncos.
“He’s a tremendous, tremendous player as well as a guy, as far as what he went through,” Fox said. “It’s a pretty different injury that he experienced. To work back and to learn a new offense, learn a new football team, learn a new city and two years later be in the Super Bowl is pretty incredible.
“I hope that’s glowing enough.”
For those who work with Manning every day, they have no doubt he still approaches the game with the enthusiasm of a youngster.
“Absolutely, you can just tell he enjoys it and he loves it,” said wide receiver Wes Welker, wearing an eye-catching bright orange suit. “He loves being around the guys. He loves the game-planning. He loves Sundays. You can just tell all of the aspects of the game he really enjoys.
“It’s great to see and it definitely inspires me as well.”
Hundreds of bundled-up Broncos fans decked out in blue and orange greeted Manning and his teammates as they got off their bus outside the Hyatt Jersey City. It was about 25 degrees when they arrived, the type of frosty conditions they might have to deal with next Sunday in the first Super Bowl played outdoors in a cold-weather site.
Not that Manning is worried about checking the forecasts.
“In my two years, I think we have seen a lot as far as on-the-field situations — weather, crowd noise, you name it — with this team,” Manning said. “So, I do feel comfortable.”
Seahawks in town
JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — From the moment he went to the podium, it was clear that Richard Sherman was enjoying the hype at the start Super Bowl week.
The Seahawks’ loquacious cornerback smiled and laughed. He never shied away from questions about his postgame rant about Michael Crabtree immediately after Seattle won the NFC title last weekend and when it came time to get serious about himself he gave thoughtful answers.
What Sherman didn’t do for the dozen camera crews and 50 members of the media at the Seahawks’ news conference after landing in New Jersey was create any banner headlines or billboard material for the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos.
He’s learned from the uproar over his comments last week, when many came away with a poor opinion of him.
“I still enjoy that because you’re learning, constantly learning and constantly growing as a person,” Sherman said Sunday night. “You’re constantly figuring out how the world works, how you can affect the world and how your words affect kids. I really want to affect kids and influence and inspire kids to really reach their full potential and live their life goals and go out there and make the world a better place, so if I can do that on this stage, it’s a great blessing.”
His focus this week is on the Broncos and the title game at MetLife Stadium.
There were no harsh words. He talked about his respect for the Broncos’ top-ranked offense, his friendship with Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas and the fact that the blowup with Crabtree led to a good discussion about race relations.
“I think it did have some effect on opening up the channels of communication and conversation and dialogue,” Sherman said. “I think I had some impact on it, and I want to have a positive impact. I want people to understand that everybody should be judged by their character and who they are as a person and not by the color of their skin. I think that’s something we’ve worked to get past as a nation, as a country, and we’re continuing to work on it. It’s healthy. Everything that happened, all the people who sent the messages, who tweeted what they tweeted, it ends up turning around to be a positive because it opens back up the discussion and people begin to get more educated. Anytime you get more knowledge, you’re more powerful as a person.”
Sherman was put under the microscope after postgame comments in which he said Crabtree is a mediocre receiver. The comments came moments after Sherman deflected a pass to Crabtree in the end zone late in the fourth quarter and it was intercepted, sealing the Seahawks’ trip to the Meadowlands.
While he didn’t apologize Sunday, Sherman doesn’t see himself as the thug some made him out to be.
“I am just a guy trying to be the best,” Sherman said. “I am a guy who wants to help this team win. I am a fiery competitor who puts his life into his work and puts his everything into his work. I came from humble beginnings and came from a place where not everyone gets out of. I am just trying to affect the world in a positive way.”
Denver cornerback Champ Bailey said Sherman is clearly a great cornerback, one who has gotten attention because of his comments last week. Bailey likes players with personalities and has nothing bad to say about Sherman.
He also understands that people who didn’t know Sherman are basing their opinions of him on one glimpse.
“When a lot of people don’t know you and that’s what you show them, and they haven’t heard your name all day, which is typical for a corner who doesn’t get a lot of balls, that’s the way it is,” Bailey said. “That’s how it is. People make their judgments on what they see and hear, and if they don’t know you they are going to draw their own conclusion. You have to live with it. If you are going to talk, you have to live with it.”
In the past week, Sherman said he reached out to Ronnie Lott and Deion Sanders for advice on how to prepare for a Super Bowl. He also downplayed that none of the Seahawks has played in a Super Bowl.
“I’ve never seen experience play in games,” Sherman said, noting the Seahawks had very little experience heading into last week’s conference championship game.