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Manningham thanks Bill for making him No. 3, but wants to be a No. 1

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, left, and

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, left, and wide receiver Mario Manningham celebrate the release of Super Bowl XLVI Champions: New York Giants. (March 5, 2012) Credit: AP

Mario Manningham became the Giants’ third receiver this season, and it was a role that suited him and the team very well. So well, in fact, that in te fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, Bill Belichick told his defense to keep the camps on Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz and force the Giants to throw the ball to Manningham.

Of course, it was Manningham who then made a great catch along the left sideline right in front of Belichick to set up the game-winning touchdown for the Giants.

“Thank you,” he said to Belichick (through us in the media) when asked if he had seen and heard that clip on the Giants’ Super Bowl DVD that was released today and premiered last night in Times Square.

While Manningham was grateful to be the third wheel on the Giants’ tricycle on that particular play, he’s certainly looking for more in his career. He’s about to become a free agent and is marketing himself not as a third option for other teams but as a first.

Asked if he thinks teams will look at him as a No. 1 receiver when he hits the market, he said: “I think (they) will.”

That will mean a big contract, bigger than what the Giants are likely willing to pay. Manningham knows that. He said that he wants to stay with the Giants, but he also said that he expects to hit the market around this time next week.

“I want to be here,” he said. “I feel like we can do a lot of damage in these next four, five years, that’s just how I feel, because we’re all young. It’s not up to me, I want to stay … It’s a business too, you got to look at it like that, too, it’s a business. That’s how it is. You got to look out for your family, that’s how it is.”

Wherever Manningham goes, it seems that he’ll take the lessons of this season – and this Super Bowl – with him.

“This year it seemed like everybody needed three or four good receivers on their team,” he said. “I feel like a lot of times where they could have took Hakeem and Victor out I could have made plays, or they could have took me and Victor out and Hakeem could have made plays. I feel like any of us can make a play at any time. You need a lot of good receivers these days.”

So many that even a defensive guru like Belichick has to make choices and sometimes wrong ones.

“I know what I can do, I know what I’m capable of doing,” he said of not being insulted by Belichick’s comments. “It’s cool. I’m glad he did that, thank you. I know what kind of player I am, so that’s nothing. It’s cool.”

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