“Hey, listen, this might be my last rodeo,” Manning said with NFL Films’ mics listening in (via ESPN), “so it sure has been a pleasure.”
That certainly sounds like something Manning, with his courtly Southern manners, would go out of his way to say to Belichick. Publicly, Manning has said only that he’ll decide his future in the game after the season and notice that he used the word “might.”
Manning, who will turn 40 in March and is under contract with the Broncos for 2016, is the oldest quarterback to play in the Super Bowl. He missed six games with plantar fasciitis this season and his passes have long lost their customary zip. His health and decline have prompted conversations about whether he might retire after the Super Bowl and his expression often suggests a man enduring rather than enjoying the game now.
Belichick’s side of the conversation with Manning wasn’t available. Asked about it Monday by reporters, Belichick offered only: “Don’t have anything to share. I shared it with Peyton.”
Belichick wasn’t the only one embracing and speaking with Manning at length after the game. Tom Brady and his old friend and nemesis spent a few quality minutes at midfield, too.