Eli Manning is entering his 14th season as quarterback of the Giants. He sat down with Newsday’s Tom Rock during the preseason to talk about this year’s team, the 10-year anniversary of his first Super Bowl win, how he might want his career to eventually end, and the biggest changes he’s seen in the NFL since he was the first overall selection in the 2004 draft.
Newsday: You recently bought a house in Quogue, so first of all, on behalf of Newsday, welcome to Long Island.
Eli Manning: “Thanks.’’
ND: What do you like about this year’s team?
EM: “A lot of things. First off I think it’s important to the guys. You see the commitment, the dedication, treating every practice as an opportunity to get better. Going out there and competing. Spending extra time studying and asking questions. There are good days, there are bad days, but they’re looking to get better. The bad days, it hurts them. It bothers them. And they want to fix it. That’s what you want.’’
ND: What do you think the younger guys who had their first taste of the playoffs last year learned from that experience?
EM: “I think just what it takes to get there and what it’s going to take to get better than that. That’s not the goal, just getting there. We have to get better. We have to be a better football team, and that comes from everybody raising their level of play’’.
ND: Brandon Marshall had a persona, maybe a bit of a reputation, before he came here as a free agent this offseason. I’m sure you knew about him from afar. What have you learned about him since he got here that has maybe surprised you?
EM: “I’ve known Brandon for a while and I knew he was a hard worker. Right from the get-go, right when we signed him, I called him up and said ‘Hey, we’re going down to Duke for throwing.’ He said ‘Yeah, I’ll be there. What time do you want me there?’ He booked his flights, he had everything set up, he was ready to work. He’s a professional, he’s been through this before, and he knows what he needs to do to get ready, to get his mind ready. He was calling me in the offseason wanting me to get together, talk routes, talk signals, talk just the mechanics of things. He’s worked extremely hard to try to get comfortable where he can play fast and I think he’s done a good job of doing that.’’
ND: Odell. How much better can he be? What kind of ceiling does he have? He’s had a great three years, but a lot of people still get better at that point in their career.
EM: “No doubt. And I think he has (this year). He’s had a terrific camp and is running the routes well. He’s just learning little tricks to getting open, learning little sticks. Getting your depth and being patient with certain routes. Just understanding what things he needed to improve on. He listens to coaching. He wants to be coached and he wants to find things he can work on. He does a good job noticing those things and making the changes.’’
ND: Can you believe it’s been 10 years since your first Super Bowl season?
EM: “It went fast. It’s been fast. That was a good time.’’
ND: A lot of guys from that team have been around here this summer, and they’ll have a kind of reunion when they’re honored in Week 2, the home opener. What do you remember most about that 2007 season? Not necessarily the Super Bowl game, but the season?
EM: “I guess one of the things is finding ways to win on the road. Hey, there was never anything easy about it. There were ups and downs and it was tough. Starting 0-2 and being down in the second half of the road game in Washington and we found a way to get a win. That was the trait of that team, never giving up and keep competing and keep working. The tougher the situation, the better off we did.’’
ND: Do you still keep in touch with Coach Coughlin?
EM: “Yeah, still talk to Coach Coughlin a little bit. We’ll send some text messages here and there. We talked during the offseason, but it’s mostly through text messages.’’
ND: What’s changed the most in the NFL since 2004 when you came in?
EM: “Social media, I guess. People with their phones more, filming and those things. That was kind of foreign back then. People had phones back then, but they were more for talking. Maybe a little texting, but it wasn’t easy texting either at that time. That’s probably the biggest difference is social media and people filming. Filming in the locker room. That was kind of a no-no back then.’’
ND: A few years ago Steve Weatherford got in trouble for posting video from the locker room, and now you guys post your dance parties practically live as they happen.
ND: A lot of people ask you when you want to retire. I’ll ask you if you have ever thought about how you want it to end. Peyton obviously went out on top, you saw Strahan do the same thing. Both left pretty much on their own terms. Do you think about that at all?
EM: “You think about winning more championships and that being the goal. Whether that can happen in your final year, I don’t know how you would predict that. You don’t know the circumstances of how it’s going to be. I feel good. I want to keep playing and I’ll keep playing as long as I want to keep playing and the New York Giants want me to be playing.’’
ND: Would another championship sway you in either direction, to keep playing or to say ‘that’s it, that’s good’?
EM: “I don’t think so. I don’t think it would be a if-we-win-I’m-done situation. I think it just depends on how the body is feeling, how the mind is, and can I be totally committed to what I want to do to put in the work to be successful.’’
ND: Thanks Eli. And listen, if you ever want to carpool to work from Long Island, just let me know.
EM: “You got it.’’