ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - Peyton Manning hasn’t strayed too far from football in retirement, serving as a volunteer coach at his kid’s youth games, hosting a show celebrating the NFL’s 100th season and visiting old friends like he did Thursday when he dropped by the Denver Broncos’ practice.
Only a handful of teammates remain from the squad that won Super Bowl 50 with him three years ago, and it’s a good thing cornerback Chris Harris Jr.’s contract stalemate was resolved this week or there would have been one less familiar face.
Manning still keeps tabs mostly on Indianapolis and Denver, where he played, and on New York, where his brother Eli is in a QB battle with Giants rookie Daniel Jones and where his former offensive coordinator Adam Gase is now running the Jets.
“He never did. I have spoken with Adam, of course, since he’s been there, but I did not speak with him about that nor was I contacted by anyone,” Manning told a group of beat reporters in a wide-ranging interview.
“But as I’ve said before, I enjoy keeping up with of course Eli, but (also) the players or coaches that I’ve played with, played for - not many players here that I’ve played with. I was meeting a lot of players here for the first time.”
Manning said he enjoyed catching up with Broncos new head coach Vic Fangio, who was his defensive coordinator in Indianapolis from 1999-2001. Manning said Fangio’s arrival in Indy “had a lot to do with” the Colts’ turnaround from 3-13 his rookie year in 1998 to 13-3 in ‘99.
“He’s super competitive and he wanted to win every practice against the offense,” Manning recounted, adding, “I think it helped me a lot.”
Manning recalled one practice in particular where he complained loudly that the DBs were holding his receivers and afterward found a plate of wine and cheese in his locker, a present from Fangio.
Manning ended up going 15-1 against Fangio’s defenses during his career.
“I don’t remember him bothering me that much, but I guess I kept it with me,” Manning said. “But I’m happy for him getting his opportunity to be a head coach. He has certainly paid his dues. He is all football. He is a grinder. And I think he’ll do a great job.”
Manning also visited with quarterback Joe Flacco , who’s trying to do the same thing Manning did seven years ago when he revived not only his own career in Denver but also the fortunes of a foundering franchise.
“I think he’ll have a great year,” Manning said, adding that rookie Drew Lock is in a good spot getting to learn from the veteran QB.
Manning said what he misses about playing is the camaraderie.
“I miss my teammates because you don’t see them every day,” he said. “That’s the greatest thing about football. You were around the guys every single day. Huddle. Plane rides. Cafeteria. The off-the-field things.”
He said he was looking forward to attending the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in August for Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and cornerback Champ Bailey, but never thinks about his own enshrinement prospects. He’s eligible in 2021.
Manning is hosting and serving as an executive producer for “Peyton’s Places ,” a five-part, 30-episode series celebrating the NFL’s 100th season. The show debuts on ESPN+ in July, with ESPN and ABC airing special compilations.
Beyond that, “I can’t look into a glass and say what I am going to be wanting to do this year, next year or five years from now,” Manning said. “I do know I want to stay close to it, connected to it.”
Manning, who said he turned down the chance to work on the “Monday Night Football” telecasts because the timing wasn’t right this year, spends plenty of time shuttling his 8-year-old twins Marshall and Mosley to their games.
“I will be at the Yankees and Smashers’ 8-year-old baseball and softball games, Marshall and Mosley,” Manning said. “I am not coaching. I am a volunteer assistant.
Manning is so busy nowadays that he shuns the word “retirement.”
“It’s my second chapter, if you will,” he said. “I don’t have that one-word job description, coaching or broadcasting. I have just been kind of busy doing lots of things. That’s important to be able to go those games. … There’s flag football on Sunday. Marshall is playing for the Rams. He has a game on Sunday at 4.”
And parents trust him around their kids after his United Way skit on “SNL” ?
“Certain parents are very hesitant,” Manning deadpanned. “I kind of have to earn it as a volunteer assistant. It’s funny. It’s fun.”
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