Giants legend confident he knew he was done playing football when he ultimately called it quits.
Some NFL players (and professional athletes in general) approach retirement differently.
There are some who call it quits and go directly into broadcasting or become studio analysts on ESPN or FOX. Others relax for a while and realize they miss the game so much they attempt to make a return, which we’ve seen players do in the past.
Eli Manning, however, knew he was done when he hung up the cleats in January 2020. He also knew he just wanted to kick back and spend time with his family, which is why he seemingly spent his first year as a retiree doing so.
“I knew I was ready to retire — I was done. And I wasn’t going to second guess, I wasn’t going to look back and worry about it,” Manning told the media Thursday ahead of his jersey retirement ceremony, set to take place this Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.
“I knew I was ready to be done playing football and that when I looked back on my time, I was just going to reflect on the good moments and the happy moments and the friendships I made and the wins we got to celebrate.
“It was a strange time and I wanted to take time away and football takes up a lot of your time during the season, during the offseason at nights, so I wanted to take a year off and just be around my family and see if there was anything else I knew I wanted to pursue or wanted to be interested in and kind of step away. And with the pandemic, it made it easy to do that because there weren’t many options going on.
“What I realized is that I still love the game, I still love prepping for it and watching film and analyzing and talking about it…I’ve enjoyed having downtime, I’ve enjoyed coaching my kids, and I’m enjoying kind of getting back into the game this Fall with the Giants and through doing Monday Night Football with Peyton. I’m enjoying getting a little taste of it and kind of slowly getting back into it but not having to give all of the time I used to have to give.”
Manning gave it his all for 16 years and provided the best ability a professional athlete can provide: availability.
He portrayed a “first one in, last one out” mentality for a decade and a half, showing his love for the game in spite of the numerous losing seasons he was a part of in East Rutherford.
But even though the adoration for football was always present, there wasn’t a thought in Eli’s mind that he would return after taking the 2020 season off. He wasn’t going to pull a Brett Favre; he wasn’t going to pull a Randall Cunningham.
“I don’t think — when you see a few guys take the year off and come back and Gronk [Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski] is obviously doing it and Jason Witten did it. But, no, there was no interest in coming back,” Manning revealed. “I saw the hits the quarterbacks were taking and I said ‘I do not want to experience that anymore, I like how I feel every Monday morning when I wake up.’
“And it’s not just the hits, it’s just everything. I enjoy the preparation, I could’ve gotten back into that part, but just the losing, just the grind of it all, I don’t know if I could’ve totally gotten back into all that. The losses just hurt more; they affect your sleep, they affect your week, they affect family life with your wife and kids, and it just got to be too much.
“I like watching the games and I root for the Giants and I feel for them after a loss, but I go to bed very easily on Sunday nights and wake up and feel good about the upcoming week and it’s not something that lingers for three or four days like it used to.”
After putting his feet up for that first year of retirement, Manning has all of a sudden become a busy man.
The two-time Super Bowl MVP is co-hosting a new alternate Monday Night Football broadcast with his brother, Peyton, that airs on ESPN2. The Manning duo called the Ravens-Raiders Week 1 matchup as well as the Lions-Packers Week 2 game, and have former and current players on as guests.
Eli is also hosting his own show, Eli’s Places, on ESPN+. It’s a college football version of Peyton’s Places, which you can also catch on the same platform.
Not to mention, Eli is back with the Giants in a business operations and fan engagement role, a job he officially earned back in June.
The love for the game is still existent, just in a different way.
Don’t expect Eli to put the helmet back on; it’s clear he’s satisfied in his current space.
Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY