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Super Bowl Veteran Mario Manningham’s Advice to 49ers: “Play Your Heart Out on Sunday”

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San Francisco 49ers receiver Mario Manningham knows that he won't be able to participate in this Sunday's Super Bowl against the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans, La.

Instead, he's been trying to share with his teammates some tips to help them handle the intense, week-long media scrutiny and distractions that come with preparing for professional football's biggest event.

Manningham, who last year went to the Super Bowl as a member of the New York Giants, is currently on the injured reserve list, recovering from surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left knee suffered on Dec. 23, 2012 in a 42-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

The injury has left him trying to hobble around New Orleans on crutches, which means that the only contribution he can make to his team is to help keep his teammates who have never before been on such a big stage grounded.

"Just don't blink," Manningham said during Wednesday's media session at the 49ers team hotel when asked what his message to his teammates was. "Cherish these experiences that you're going through--not too many players come to the Super Bowl and win it."

Against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, Manningham was on the receiving end of one of the most spectacular receptions of the game, a 38-yard strike from quarterback Eli Manning out of the shotgun that came on the first play of what turned out to be the Giants' game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.

"I was on the left side, New England's side," he recalled of the catch that he made sure to get his toes in bounds before falling to the sideline. "I re-did my route because it was Cover-2. I stayed in bounds, and Eli just threw a perfect ball."

Manningham would go on to be targeted by Manning three more times on that drive, coming up with two more catches for 18 yards as the Giants capped a nine-play, 88-yard scoring drive with a 6-yard rushing touchdown by running back Ahmad Bradshaw to take a 21-17 lead that they never relinquished.

When the dust settled from that Super Bowl run and free agency began a month after, Manningham, then an unrestricted free agent, left the Giants to sign a two-year deal with the 49ers.

In his first season this past year, he posted 42 receptions in 12 games for 449 yards and 1 touchdown before the injury.

"I just wanted to make an impact and come in and contribute to this team knowing that I played against them last year and I knew how tough they were," Manningham said of his reasons for signing with the 49ers. "I wanted to come bring my toughness with me so that we could be right where we are right now."

He won't be able to contribute that toughness on the field on Sunday, something he admitted was difficult for him to fully grasp. "Yeah, especially when you know that you can make an impact on the field. Plus, when you know your team is good and you can see the road that they've taken, you can see everything unfolding."

What he does plan to do, though, is deliver a message from his heart that will be based on his experience of having been in this position before, a message that he hopes his teammates will take with them before the run out onto the Mercedes-Benz Superdome field to line up for the opening kickoff.

"Go out and play your heart out on Sunday--that's all I can tell them," he said.

Patricia Traina is a New Jersey-based sportswriter who has covered the New York Giants for more than 15 seasons for Inside Football. She is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.

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