SAN JOSE, Calif. – As a longtime sports fan, Peyton Manning remembers the farewell tours of some of the greats.
The first he recalls was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with that ginormous rocking chair presented by his Los Angeles Lakers in 1989. Manning attended one of the final games of Derek Jeter's swan season of 2014. Manning was also there when his good friend Todd Helton got a horse in his final game at Coors Field in 2013.
Perhaps, Manning could have at least jumped on Thunder and ridden a lap around Sports Authority Field at Mile High last Sunday when he led the Denver Broncos past the New England Patriots, 20-18, in the AFC Championship Game.
"Why would I … I don't know if you noticed that podium stage was pretty crowded," Manning said Monday in a sitdown interview with 9News prior to meeting a media mob at Super Bowl 50 Opening Night here are the SAP Center. "Thunder was up there, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith, Terrell Davis. "Von and DeMarcus had to fight just to get a little time up there."
Sharpe, Smith and Davis are former Broncos greats who just got the needle. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are current Broncos' pass rusher who dominated the Patriots' offensive front and harassed quarterback Tom Brady.
Manning then returned to the point, which is he doesn't want to announce his retirement at season's end. For two reasons. One, he's not certain he's going to retire. And two, even if he was certain Super Bowl 50 would be "his last rodeo" as he said at midfield to New England coach Bill Belichick following the AFC Championship, he wouldn't want to go through those farewell ceremonies.
‘'No, that's not me," Manning said. "I guess if you knew the answer (about retirement). The people I've talked to they've said it really is a distraction. A lot of times those teams didn't have great seasons because of all the distractions they had to deal with those honoring a player. Every week this is last time you're going to play in Oakland or Kansas City. Everything is the last time.
"In a team sport I don't think it's fair to the guys you're playing with. If you were a golfer it'd be different. And I don't know the answer.''
Indeed, Abdul-Jabbar's Lakers got swept by the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals. Jeter's New York Yankees missed the playoffs in 2013. At least Helton waited until later in his final season, when the Colorado Rockies were already tanked, before announcing his playoffs.
But about that "this might be my last rodeo'' message Manning tried to tell Belichick in confidence. Those midfield boom mikes spoiled the secret.
"I'm not naïve, I understand there are people around – I wanted to use that particular time to tell a coach that I've had 23 games against and have had some disappointing losses and some great wins – I told the quarterback Tom Brady the same thing.
"There's something about telling a person at that particular time as opposed to a text or even a handwritten letter. There's something about telling a guy man-to-man, ‘Hey, boy you're a heckuva player, you're a heckuva coach. I've enjoyed these battles.
"And I may play against these guys 10 more times. Brady's going to play till he's 70, Belichick is going to coach till he's 90. Maybe I hit the fountain of youth in the next couple of months and play another 10 years. Who knows?
But in case it was the last time I played against them in the championship,'' Manning said with emphasis, "what I said was true, "Hey, this could be. No definite. And something about telling them man to man, it wasn't planned it was reactionary.
"You media folks are all over the field. You barely have time to move or talk to anybody so I just took the time to tell those guys and it was the way I felt at that particular time''
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