Peyton Manning turned in one of his better performances on “Late Show with David Letterman” on Monday night.
The Denver Broncos quarterback talked about his struggle to recover from a neck injury and multiple surgeries that sidelined him for all of 2011 and revealed that he’s still not right, despite that record-shattering 2013 season. He talked about the Broncos’ 35-point Super Bowl loss and delivered a little jab at Roger Goodell and Bill Belichick.
“I’m not at 100 percent compared to what I was before my surgery,” Manning, who ultimately underwent cervical fusion, told Letterman. “But I have made strides each season and this year felt a lot better than I did the year before. These nerves just go at their own pace.”
Manning spoke of his frustration of being in a situation he couldn’t control. “You talk about waking up every day at 7 a.m. excited and then being pretty depressed by noon every day — today’s not the day,” he said.
Finally, he figured out a workaround for his new reality.
“I used to sit in the mirror and just sort of go through my throwing motion trying to get the feel back the way I’d always thrown before,” Manning said. “Maybe I can’t throw the 100 mile-an-hour fastball any more, but I can still strike you out, picking my spots, working the plate. I don’t make the same kind of throws I used to make. I try to use the cerebral part, use my experience.”
Manning has been cleared to play again this fall, but, at 38, he knows his football career is finite.
“I have been rejuvenated these past two years after sitting a year out,” Manning said. “When you get back out there, boy, I’ve just been so grateful to get back out there with my teammates putting in the hard work. I still enjoy what I’m doing, the preparation part, and I still think I can help the team. If the Broncos say, ‘Hey we don’t need you any more,’ that’ll probably be the end of it. And as soon as I don’t feel like I can do the same things I’ve been doing, that’s when I’ll stop playing.”
Letterman asked about “Omaha,” the code word he barks at the line of scrimmage. It became a phenomenon last fall, and Manning pounced on the opportunity to aim a jab at Goodell … and Belichick (even if the latter was more of a set-up for Letterman).
“I don’t like it,” Manning said of the attention “Omaha” received. “I’m not a fan of it … because it reveals terminology an opponent next week can use. I don’t like Bill Belichick hearing our plays that we’re using…. I think you’ve got to get up there and say some really negative things about the commissioner, Roger Goodell, you know, ‘Blue 20, blue 20, Roger Goodell is a no good you-know-what,’ and I think they’ll just kind of turn that volume down.”
To which Letterman replied: “As we know about Bill Belichick, he brings his own microphones, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
There’s a bit of a wistful tone to the conversation between the two men with Indiana ties, and who can blame them. They’ve done this a few times since 1997.