"Maybe I hit the fountain of youth in the next month and I play another 10 years," Manning offered here Monday.
Well, other than that there is no evidence.
Teammates say he hasn't revealed anything. His parents grew emotional before the last game believing that would be the end of his 17-season career, although they say Peyton hasn't told them anything. His older brother Cooper says he doesn't know anything for certain either, but he has his suspicions. The NFL Network reported he told some friends this was it, but there are no details.
Then there is the video after the AFC championship game of Manning telling New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, "Hey, listen, this might be my last rodeo. So it sure has been a pleasure."
Manning didn't deny he said what he said. He even acknowledged he said the exact same thing to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in an exchange that wasn't picked up by cameras when they met on the field.
He said he said it, not because he has some secret master plan to retire, but because he's a "realist" and if – IF – that was it, he thought it was the right thing to do.
"That was not pre-planned," Manning said. "It was a spontaneous reaction. Sometimes you want to tell somebody something man-to-man, it's better than telling them via text or even a handwritten letter, or seeing them at a banquet and saying, 'Boy, it sure was great playing against you.'
"I told Brady the same thing previous to telling Belichick," he continued. "I understand there's people [nearby] but what I said was true. This could be it. I'm aware this could be it and I wanted to tell both of them I really have enjoyed these games. It's been part of my football life and both of those guys have been part of good for me and not so good for me and so I took the time to tell them."
So, is he retiring?
"I'll deal with all that after the season," Manning said.
There is one game left in the season, the biggest of them all, and Manning is doing the right thing by deflecting the question and the decision. His teammates already speak about him with reverence and say they are motivated to get the 39-year-old, five-time league MVP a second Super Bowl victory (he won one in Indianapolis).
So there isn't a lot of motivation to be gained by officially making this the Manning farewell game.
In contrast, sapping up the limelight with such an announcement could, perhaps, produce a negative reaction. One thing about Manning this season, or at least during this run since returning from missing six full games with a foot injury, is that he isn't and shouldn't be the focal point of the team. That's easier said than done, but he keeps repeating it.
"I haven't led the team to the Super Bowl," Manning said. "Our defense has. I'm part of it."
So even though he's the most famous and celebrated player in the game's glamour position, he doesn't want it to be all about him. Or so he says.
Mostly he sounds like a guy trying to soak in every last second of an experience he wasn't sure would ever come again. He came back from a season-lost neck injury in 2011 to lead – yes, lead – Denver to the Super Bowl after the 2013 campaign, only to get run off the field by Seattle.
This season he was benched after throwing four interceptions in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Plantar fasciitis took him out of action for another six weeks. He was a backup in Week 17 for the first time since early in his freshman season at Tennessee, only to come in as a replacement to a struggling Brock Osweiler.
Denver hasn't lost since, although Manning has been nothing more than just adequate enough. Now a guy who can't throw it like he used to and can't run well (not that he ever could) is trying to piece together one last game, one last performance, one last win – against a team that is currently 17-1.
"My arm is what it is," said Manning, which isn't what you generally want a Super Bowl quarterback to say. "My arm feels OK. My arm has not been the same since I got injured four years ago. I've worked hard to kind of manage the physical limitations.
"I got to the point where I think I can be effective," Manning continued. "It's just different. It's got a few yards on it, miles maybe."
So Denver's season may come down to whether Manning can find enough points, and extend enough time-killing drives, to help the defense hold Cam Newton to a reasonable number.
If he can't, it's over. That's pretty much it. Manning is left to gallows humor, noting the Panthers might be rattled by his successful 12-yard scramble against the Patriots.
"There's a good chance Carolina may send somebody to spy me."
He's spending his week trying to laugh as much as he can. The team flight was full of fun, he noted. Osweiler put together a dinner Sunday night and Manning was first in line to attend. He treasured the chance to practice Monday at Stanford, especially in the nice weather.
He hopes the pregame schedule allows him to get out on the field and stand next to his brother, Eli, when the New York Giants quarterback is honored with other Super Bowl MVPs.
"No, I haven't made my mind up," Manning said. "I wouldn't know that until after the season. Whatever cliché you want to use, I'm staying in the moment. That's what I've done all season."
He expects he might get emotional listening to the national anthem, although he said that's happened before and, whether it's having kids or just being more reflective, he finds himself getting more emotional at all sorts of things that didn't used to bother him.
"I'm 39," Manning said. "I'm getting old."