Jeff Legwold | ESPN.com
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In what was likely the most expansive answer to the inevitable questions about his future, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said Sunday he “certainly” wanted to play beyond the result of next Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII.
Since the postseason has started, Manning has used phrases like “light at the end of the tunnel” about his playing career and made references to his career being in the homestretch. But when asked, just after the Broncos’ arrival Sunday night, Manning said he planned on playing in the 2014 season.
“I certainly had a career change two years ago with my injury, with changing teams so I truly have been a one-year-at-a-time basis, so I really have no plans beyond this game,” Manning said. “I had no plans coming into this season beyond this year, I think that’s kind a healthy way to approach your career at this stage.
“I still enjoy playing football, I feel a little better than I thought I would at this point coming off that surgery. I still enjoy the preparation part of it, the work part of it. Everybody enjoys the game, everybody’s excited to play in a Super Bowl, but I think when you still enjoy the preparation, the work part of it, I think you still ought to be doing that.
“I think as soon as I stop enjoying it, if I can’t do this, if I can’t help the team, that’s when I stop playing. If that’s next year and maybe it is, but I certainly want to continue to keep playing.”
That is the premise Broncos team officials have been operating off of as well. The Broncos believe Manning’s status for 2014 will not depend on whether he wins next weekend’s Super Bowl or not. It will depend on what a medical exam, the same kind of exam Manning had following the 2012 season, on his surgically repaired neck shows in the coming weeks.
If doctors give Manning the thumbs up, he will play in 2014. Manning has always said if the doctors told him, even during his recovery following spinal fusion surgery, he shouldn’t play, that he would walk away from the game knowing, “it’s been a good run.”
Last week, Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway was asked if he expected Manning back in 2014. Elway said he still believed Manning was “young and he’s playing well.”
“He doesn’t talk about that kind of stuff,” Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said Sunday. “Whether it’s his last [game] or his first of many more, I don’t really care right now. All I’m worried about is this week. … I never got any indication he was talking about retiring. You would think after a season like this he’d play 10 more years. But we all know that’s not going to happen. I’m sure he’ll hang ’em up when it’s time.”
Manning set NFL single-season records this season with 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns as the Broncos set a single-season record with 606 points. He’s 26-6 in regular-season starts with Denver, with two division titles and the Broncos’ first Super Bowl appearance since Elway’s last season behind center in 1998.
The Broncos signed Manning to a five-year, $96 million deal that runs through the 2016 season in March of 2012. In May 2013, the Broncos purchased insurance to cover the team in the event Manning did not play in the 2014 season due to an injury suffered during the 2013 season that wasn’t related to his surgically repaired neck.
The Broncos added the policy after Manning passed a postseason exam on his neck in early 2013. That 2013 exam kicked in a $20 million guaranteed salary for 2013 and a $20 million guaranteed salary for 2014, to go with some salary advances along the way. The insurance policy is for the 2014 season and covers the team for $10 million of that salary if Manning does not play in 2014 because of a non-neck injury he suffered at some point in the 2013 season or postseason.
Manning was also asked Sunday about the idea of going out as a champion in the event the Broncos won the Super Bowl.
“I know there is a number of players that have walked away as champions,” Manning said. “I’m sure that’s a great feeling for those people, John Elway, Ray Lewis did it last year, Micheal Strahan. In talking to Ray Lewis and in talking to John Elway, they couldn’t play any more, that was all they had to give. They truly left it all out there.”
Information from ESPN.com Jets reporter Rich Cimini was used in this report.
- Covered Broncos for nine years for Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News
- Previously covered Steelers, Bills and Titans
- Member of Pro Football Hall of Fame Board
of Selectors since 1999