NEWARK, N.J. — Peyton Manning is not interested in talking about where his career stands in football history.
Not right now, anyway. Not when he’s still playing. And certainly not less than a week from playing in the Super Bowl for the Denver Broncos.
As collected and measured as he is while standing in a pocket, Manning coasted through the circus that is media day, opining on his family’s favorite beer, politely evading silly questions about reality TV – and avoiding any wild pronouncements.
Reporters repeatedly brought up the word “legacy” as the 37-year-old Manning, a four-time NFL MVP who broke records by throwing for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards this season, sat through his hour-long session Tuesday.
Hardly surprising that he never took the bait.
“I’ve been being asked about my legacy since I was about 25 years old. I’m not sure you can have a legacy when you’re 25 years old. Even 37,” Manning said in response to the first such query. “I’d like to have to be, like, 70 to have a legacy. I’m not even 100 percent sure what the word even means.”
Then, in about the closest thing to a stumble, Manning continued: “I’m still in the middle of my career.”
At least one of the dozens of assembled media members gasped, “middle?!”
Realizing his miscue, Manning chuckled and went on.
“Let me rephrase that,” he resumed. “I’m down the homestretch of my career, but I’m still in it. It’s not over yet. And so it’s still playing out. This has been the second chapter of my career.”
There wasn’t nearly as much singular focus for Russell Wilson. The Seattle Seahawks quarterback – somewhat overlooked at this Super Bowl by the QB on the other sideline – came down from his podium on Tuesday and fulfilled the wish of an older woman named Josephine wearing the jersey of teammate Richard Sherman. All she wanted was a hug.
While there was plenty of attention on Seattle’s QB on Tuesday, it was less than the hoard that surrounded Sherman or even the short availability of running back Marshawn Lynch. Wilson was peppered about growing out his hair – a mix between Bruno Mars and Michael Jackson he says – his faith, his friendship with Grammy winning rapper Macklemore and even tried answering a question in Spanish.
Just like his teammates, Wilson tried to have fun with media day. Few had as much fun as Sherman, who couldn’t wait to start talking.
Even before his allotted hour began, Seattle’s polarizing cornerback began answering questions from a podium. By the time the official clock began on the Seahawks’ session, Sherman was already on question No. 6.
He presented a much different side than that angry 20-second rant after the NFC championship game, which sparked a national debate over sportsmanship and racial attitudes. Sherman was charming, funny and didn’t raise his voice at all. He said he was glad to have the chance to show there’s more to him than what people saw after he made the play that clinched Seattle’s victory over San Francisco.
One of his teammates couldn’t have been more different. Lynch made an early exit, then returned just in time to possibly avoid a hefty fine from the NFL.
The running back, wearing a hood and dark sunglasses, abruptly left the required session, walking out after 6½ minutes.
He later came back and stood on the side of the media area, doing interviews with the Armed Forces Network, Deion Sanders for the NFL Network, and a Seahawks Web reporter. Lynch also talked to teammates and signed footballs and a helmet for fans in the stands.
While he did that, about five dozen media members stood in front of Lynch and shouted out a few questions. He ignored almost all of them as time ran out in Seattle’s 45-minute availability.
One reporter asked, “Are you trying to avoid being fined by standing here?” Lynch twice nodded his head yes.
Earlier this month, Lynch was fined $50,000 for not cooperating with the Seattle media. The NFL put the fine on hold, saying it would be rescinded if his behavior improved.