Eli Manning optimistic about Giants, hopeful of playing a long time

Eli Manning looks for an open receiver during

Eli Manning looks for an open receiver during training camp. (July 29, 2013) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

You'll never find Eli Manning making a guarantee of any sort, much less one about the Giants going to the Super Bowl this season. Or any other season, for that matter.

But it was worth noting that the quarterback said he feels as good about this year's team as any other he's been on. And given that two of those teams indeed were Super Bowl winners, that's saying something.

When I asked Manning if he thinks this year's team looks as good as any Giants team he's seen, he replied, "I do, I do. Obviously, my focus is the offense, but I feel we have talented running backs, we have three or four talented receivers that can play and have proven themselves, and a new tight end with Brandon [Myers] and an offensive line that's experienced.''

Just the usual preseason optimism from Manning? Perhaps. But even though he is ever the optimist, even when his teams that haven't won the Super Bowl faced adversity, you get the sense his opinion is rooted in realism when he looks at this year's group.

Consider:

Manning still is in his prime at 32 and is one of only three active quarterbacks with at least two Super Bowl rings (Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are the others).

Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz form one of the most dynamic receiving threats in the league, and it looks as though second-year receiver Rueben Randle is ready to contribute more in the passing game.

Former first-round running back David Wilson takes over as the feature back after the Giants parted ways with Ahmad Bradshaw, although Wilson will need to make some major strides to reach Bradshaw's level of toughness.

The offensive line is solid.

Myers is a potentially good weapon for the passing game.

The defense is somewhat of a question mark, mostly because we don't know how quickly All-Pro defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will recover from offseason back surgery. But if he gets back to full strength and the Giants can recapture their swagger from the Super Bowl season of 2011, Manning's take on his team will be validated as more than just the feel-good vibe of an observation made in training camp.

Manning's view of his own situation is similarly upbeat. He told me he feels as good as he's ever felt and sees every reason to keep playing in the foreseeable future. And that future extends beyond what he has ever said before.

"I've never put an exact number on it, but I do know I don't see the end anywhere too near, so I'm going to play as long as I feel I can play at a high level and my body can hang under me,'' he said. "I do feel healthy and strong and energized about what I'm doing, and I'm fortunate. Hopefully it's for another five-plus years. I put that as somewhat of a goal.''

And if he makes it into the "plus'' part of five-plus? Could we possibly see Manning play for another 10 years?

"Yeah, I think, yeah,'' he said. "I love what I'm doing. I love training camp. I love the working-out aspects. I love the practice. I love winning games. Those are exciting things. So as of right now, I don't ever see that getting old or getting tired.''

He knows the sheer physical nature of the sport might not let him play that long. But as he inches toward the latter years of his career, Manning isn't willing to put an expiration date on it just yet. It's the first time he has said publicly he'd be willing to play into his 40s.

"I don't know what my body will feel like in eight years, or what a game or a practice feels like afterward," he said. "Obviously, the game of football can quickly be taken away from you, and I understand that. There is a need to focus on that next year and making sure you give it your all that year.''

There's no question Manning will give it his all no matter what the year and no matter what his age. That's one thing we've come to know from the Giants' franchise quarterback, who stepped into the lineup midway through his rookie season and hasn't missed a game since. That's 146 straight games (including playoffs) and counting.

If his health allows, that streak figures to grow longer. In fact, judging from what he's thinking, that streak could grow much, much longer.