At 32, Manning Says He's Not Feeling His Age After 10 NFL Seasons
INDIANAPOLIS - Peyton Manning admires quarterbacks who play a long time.
Manning recently wrote recently-retired Steve McNair a letter saying as much. He hasn't written Brett Favre.
Not yet, anyway.
"We'll kind of wait and see what happens there, I guess," Manning said with a laugh on Friday, the first day of the Colts' three-day veteran/rookie minicamp.
Manning, entering his 11th season as the Colts' starting quarterback, said longevity is among the topics on his mind as the team prepares for the 2008 season, a process he said begins officially this weekend.
It was an issue he discussed in a 15-minute conversation with the media.
McNair, who shared the Associated Press Most Valuable Player award with Manning in 2003, recently retired after 13 NFL seasons. Favre recently retired after 17 seasons, but Manning said he still hopes the former Green Bay Packers standout will reconsider.
As for Manning, he said he doesn't feel his age.
And he said that's an imant factor during what he calls the second half of his career.
"I do take a lot of pride in going into my 11th year," Manning said. "I always admired guys who played as long as McNair did, or Favre did, or (former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan) Marino did. It's not an easy position to have longevity in this career.
"I turned 32 this past March, but I really feel as a quarterback, it's not necessarily how old you are as much as how old your body is. I think because of the protection I've had with the offensive line and with what (offensive line coach) Howard Mudd has been able to do, I'm probably – I don't know – a 28-year-old body, if that makes any sense.
"Hopefully, I can keep it that way and keep having that great protection and be able to hopefully play as well in the second half of my career as maybe I did in the first half. That's my goal."
The Colts' off-season conditioning program, as well as this weekend's minicamp and upcoming summer school sessions – or organized team activities – are key in that process, Manning said.
"The offseason program is going good," Manning said. "I feel healthy. The arm feels live. I think you do have to take into account each year the number of throws you make and take a little extra time stretching and weightlifting and what not.
"But l feel good health-wise, and looking forward to getting things started this weekend."
Manning during his conversation with the media Friday discussed extensively the recent retirements of Favre and McNair, the latter of whom he faced annually when McNair quarterbacked the Tennessee Titans from 2002-2005.
"I wrote Steve a letter the other day, congratulating him on his career," Manning said.
Manning said that's something he has done often in recent years, writing players he has admired and respected such as Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Will Shields and Tennessee Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, among others.
"I haven't written a letter to Favre yet," he said, adding, "Like everybody else, we'll see what happens in this fall."
Manning said he was surprised Favre retired following this past season, and said he hopes he returns.
"Brett's a guy who has been such an influence on me and all young quarterbacks," Manning said. "I guess part of it is kind of a hope that he finds his way back in the NFL this year. That's kind of where I feel about that. I really haven't had a chance to speak with him. He sent me a nice text message after the (NFC) Championship game. He wanted Eli (Manning)'s number. He wanted to congratulate Eli (on beating the Packers in the title game). That tells you the kind of class person he is.
"I hope he finds his way back in the NFL this year."
FOCUSED ON YOUTH: Manning said his primary focus this weekend during minicamp and in the coming weeks in summer school will be working with the Colts' younger receivers.
The Colts recently drafted tight ends Jacob Tamme (Kentucky) and Tom Santi (Virginia) and Manning said he expects second-year veteran receiver Devin Aromashadu to have a key role in the offense next season.
"That's kind of my focus at this point, especially in these minicamps, is working with the younger guys," Manning said. "For so many years, it was the same group back offensively every year. We've had some change the past few years on offense. That's really what I'm focusing my efforts on, getting as comfortable as I possibly can with whatever receiver I may be throwing to.
"I want to come out of this minicamp feeling like I have good timing with these guys to continue this through the summer school and the training camp."
THE OFFICIAL BEGINNING: Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy, entering his seventh season with the team, said he considers the veteran/rookie minicamp each season the beginning of the season.
On Friday, he said he told the team as much.
"We are ready to get back at it and I think it's a pretty good feeling to have your group back together," Dungy said. "It's kind of the beginning of the 2008 season. I told the guys this morning that's how I look at it. We've done a lot of groundwork to get the foundation ready.
"Now, it's time to roll and go to work. Our group feels that way. It will be fun to get back out there, get back in the meetings and all of the things we do at this time of year."
Said Manning, "It's always an exciting time, this first minicamp. The rookies were here for rookie minicamp (in early May), but this is the first time the whole team's together in one setting. It makes you feel like the season opener's getting closer. You kind of form your identity for the 2008 season.
"I always look forward to this first mandatory minicamp, even though the majority of our team has been here since the first of April working out."
MOVING ON: Tight end Bryan Fletcher and guard Dylan Gandy, reserves for the Colts the past three seasons, were recently released, Dungy said Friday.
The releases came shortly after the 2008 NFL Draft, when the Colts drafted heavily at the positions, selecting two tight ends – Tamme and Santi – and interior offensive linemen Mike Pollak of Arizona State (second), Steven Justice of Wake Forest (sixth) and Jamey Richard of Buffalo (seventh).
"We wanted to give them an opportunity," Dungy said of Fletcher and Gandy. "Salary cap-wise, it was going to be difficult the way we were going to have to juggle things. Rather than take it down to the wire, we thought it would be fair to give those guys a chance to go somewhere else. It's always a little bit tough, because you don't want to have some injuries and be kind of stuck, but we felt like it was the right thing to do.
"Some of our young guys have to come in and be ready to go in those spots."
SANDERS, HARRISON MISS PRACTICE: The following players were present at minicamp, but not practicing: cornerback T.J. Rushing, cornerback Michael Coe, safety Bob Sanders, linebacker Gary Brackett, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, offensive guard Ryan Lilja and offensive lineman Tala Esera.