“It’s cold,” Manning said today. “It’s been raining for the last week or so.”
Fortunately for him, he gets to escape to Hawaii.
Manning – the second alternate when the teams were announced last month - learned this week he has been added to the NFC Pro Bowl squad as a replacement for Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who said he failed his postseason physical because of knee and ankle injuries. Manning is the NFC’s second stand-in quarterback; New Orleans’ Drew Brees will play for Washington’s injured Robert Griffin III. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is the conference’s third quarterback.
“I just got a couple text messages yesterday that Rodgers wasn’t going to play and I was next on the list,” Manning said. “I think my wife (Abby) was probably the most excited. She was all over it. I didn’t have much phone access and she was trying to text and call so that she could start planning and coordinating and I was kind of unavailable. When I finally got to a place where my cell phone had service, I had 10 text messages and missed calls from her trying to get coordinated. It was a good surprise. It’s a fun time. You have a few teammates with Chris (Snee), Victor (Cruz ), JPP (
The Pro Bowl will be played in Honolulu on Jan. 27, the week between the conference championship games and Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Manning said he expects to travel to Hawaii on Sunday.
This will be Manning’s second Pro Bowl appearance. He played in the game following the 2008 season. Manning was selected last year, but didn’t play because he had the far more important matter of having to prepare for Super Bowl XLVI.
Although the Pro Bowl a low-stakes game on the NFL calendar, Manning said he is eager to participate.
“You just look forward to being around some other players and getting to know them a little bit,” he said. “Having a week of practice to toss it around will be fun. I think it can always be a long offseason away from football for a few months, and I enjoy playing football, and learning and practicing and all those things, so I’m looking forward to another week of it.”
The NFC team will be coached by Pete Carroll and the staff of the Seattle Seahawks, who lost a divisional playoff game last week in Atlanta.
In his first Pro Bowl, Manning was joined by Kurt Warner and Brees as the NFC quarterbacks. He completed 8 of 14 passes for 111 yards, including a fourth-quarter, 2-yard touchdown pass that put the NFC ahead for good in what became a 30-21 victory. He also threw an interception and was sacked once.
“Lot of great memories,” Manning said. “It’s one of those deals when you’re in there you want to play well. It may not be the same intensity as a regular-season game, but it’s still, ‘I’m out there, I want to have good drives and I want to find completions and I want the guys to play hard and you want to go out there and have success.’ I think that mentality doesn’t really change a whole lot.
“Throwing the touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald was a good moment. It is a fun time and to be out there and get to be around other players and guys you know a little bit, but you watch them play. You have great respect for them, and you get to practice with them for a week and get to know them a little bit outside of just on game-day talking to them a minute after a game and getting to know their personality. All of those things are exciting and fun. You appreciate the guys who do work hard during that time. They don’t ask us to practice real long, but the guys, the receivers who are running their routes full, who have a little pace to their work and are trying to go out there and have fun, yet also make sure that we’re prepared and we can go out there and play good football.”
Manning will be joined by three of his Giants teammates – Snee, a four-time Pro Bowl guard, Cruz and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. He is excited to have an opportunity to throw to Cruz. In the last two seasons, Cruz has caught 168 Manning passes for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“I think that will be good to have,” Manning said. “You know his timing; you know his body language, those types of things. That will definitely be an advantage, hopefully when I’m in the game he’ll be in there as well. Hopefully, we can hook up a few times and get some completions.”
Manning is also looking forward to spending time with Peyton, whose season ended Saturday when the Denver Broncos suffered a heartbreaking double overtime loss to Baltimore in their divisional playoff game. John Fox and the Denver staff will coach the AFC Pro Bowl team.
“It’s fun, just because I haven’t seen him since June or July,” Manning said. “That was the last time I saw him. I haven’t seen him much so it will be good to have a week with him and get to hang out and I’ll have my daughter there and he’ll have his kids. We’ll have them be around each other. It will be fun just to be with him in the afternoons after practice and get to hang out.”
When the Giants’ season ended without a postseason berth following their victory over Philadelphia on Dec. 30, Manning spoke of the limited opportunities players have to win championships as they get older. He just turned 32. Peyton will be 37 in March, so Eli certainly can empathize with what his brother is enduring this week.
“I really haven’t talked to him, but anytime obviously, a season ends, you’re disappointed,” Manning said. “Whether you’re in the playoffs or not, the season’s over and it’s always tough especially as you get older. That was possibly another chance to win a championship and obviously couldn’t get it done, but you keep working hard to give yourself another chance so if it comes up you’re ready for it.”
The brothers will have a chance to commiserate in Hawaii, where, for Eli, the first task will be to get his arm cranked up. He said he hasn’t thrown a pass in two weeks.
“I should start tossing it around a little this week,” Manning said, “to make sure the arm’s still loosened up a little bit.