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For 16 NFL seasons, Eli Manning’s Sundays were structured and defined.
He’d get to the stadium early to get his mind right and prepare to lead the New York Giants to victory. And then, depending on what happened over the course of the 60-minute contest, he knew what kind of week would lay ahead.
It was a repetitive dance, one that he did well as he became richer and more famous than 99 percent of the population for it, one that scores of ex-players end up missing almost immediately once their playing days are over.
If you think that applies to Manning, if you think there’s a chance the 39-year-old would come back to the league, especially as 43-year-old Tom Brady keeps chugging along in Tampa Bay, you’d be wrong.
“When I retired back in February, I knew I was done,” Manning told Yahoo Sports on Monday. “There were no questions about it — there was going to be no comeback, I was done with football.”
He still is, as he has been completely comfortable watching games from afar. He used the Yahoo Sports app’s Watch Together feature – which allows viewers to stream games with up to three friends from different locations – to catch the Giants' Week 2 game with former teammate Shaun O’Hara.
“It's been easy for me to get back and watch games on Sunday to watch the Giants,” Manning said.
“I’m still kind of figuring out how to be a fan, but afterwards it's a lot easier to put the game behind me. [There’s] no soreness, no bruises and no waking up the next day, knowing the outcome of that game is going to affect the rest of my week. And I want them to win, but the losses don’t hurt as bad, for sure.”
Manning is rooting for the Giants, he reiterates, and he mentioned his former understudy, Daniel Jones, and his ex-targets, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, as players he wants the best for. He also wished the best to his former running back, Saquon Barkley, who suffered a season-ending knee injury Sunday.
“I just feel for Saquon, feel for the person,” Manning said. “Injuries are tough and I know how hard he's worked and how important it is to him, playing football. He wanted to have a big year this year and so I just feel for him.”
The Giants’ next game is at home against San Francisco (1-1).
“A win on a Sunday can fix so many problems,” Manning said of the 0-2 Giants. “They need a win more than most people this upcoming week.”
New York has shown some fight in the first two games, which is no small feat given the odds that have been stacked against them with new head coach Joe Judge trying to establish himself during a pandemic-affected offseason.
“I knew it was just going to be tough for them this year to start with a new coach, new coordinators and some young players at some key positions and no spring training, no preseason games,” Manning said. “They were going to have to learn on the fly a little bit, and I think now they’ve got two games under their belt, hopefully they can fix some of the mistakes that’s been repeated and start making some strides to get better.”
It helps that Manning believes they’ve got the right guy at quarterback in Jones, who was just named a captain in his second season with the Giants.
“I think what I like about Daniel is that he is a football player and that's what he wants to be,” Manning said. “He wants to be a quarterback — he doesn’t care about being a superstar or being in commercials or being the toast of the town. He wants to win games for the New York Giants.”
Which means putting in the work, which Manning knows for a fact that Jones wants to do.
So yes, Manning believes the position he manned for nearly two decades for Big Blue is in capable hands, and he’s apparently very comfortable with this reality. Because when asked, one more time, whether there’s any scenario that could bring him back to the NFL, Manning shook his head and laughed.
“I’m done, I’m done,” Manning said. “I like feeling good on Mondays, I don’t want to lose a football game ever again. I like watching it, I like streaming it, I like watching everybody and being home with the family a little bit. I’m in a good place and I don’t want to mess that up.”
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