Peyton Manning announces retirement from NFL
5-time MVP says goodbye at emotional news conference in Denver
Peyton Manning got through the weekend thanks to hundreds of texts and calls from men he played against or alongside over his unparalleled 18-year NFL career.
He had to crack a few jokes to help fight back the tears at his retirement news conference Monday, when the words didn't always come as easy as the emotions.
His voice cracking, especially when he mentioned his hero, Johnny Unitas, Manning said goodbye to the game he loved in an auditorium packed with friends, family and laughter.
I thought about it a lot, prayed about it a lot ... it was just the right time.- Broncos QB Peyton Manning on his NFL retirement
Manning, who turns 40 this month, said the timing was simply right to call one last audible one month after winning his second Super Bowl trophy.
"I thought about it a lot, prayed about it a lot … it was just the right time," Manning said. "I don't throw as good as I used to, don't run as good as I used to, but I have always had good timing."
Manning came to Denver on March 20, 2012, for the chance to win another title in the twilight of his career. General manager John Elway had the blueprints.
Four years later, he hobbles away a champion, just like his boss did 17 years ago.
Manning plans to travel to Indianapolis later this month for a lower-key goodbye, nothing like this one, and said he'll still participate in his family's annual passing academy this summer.
Aside from that, it's anybody's guess.
Staying in Denver
Maybe a front office or a broadcast booth beckons. He hasn't ruled out anything other than this: he and his wife and five-year-old twins won't be moving out of Denver. They love it here.
"I'm totally convinced that the end of my football career is just the beginning of something I haven't even discovered yet," Manning said. "Life is not shrinking for me; it's morphing into a whole new world of possibilities."
We all used to think a no-huddle was a fast pace, get to the line of scrimmage and get people off-balance. Peyton revolutionized it.- Broncos GM and ex-NFL QB John Elway on the retiring Peyton Manning
It was through the eyes of a former QB and not those of a general manager that Elway really enjoyed watching Manning, however.
"Peyton Manning revolutionized the game," Elway said. "We all used to think a no-huddle was a fast pace, get to the line of scrimmage and get people off-balance. Peyton revolutionized it, and you know what, we're going to get to the line of scrimmage, take our time, I'm going to find out what you're doing and then I'm going to pick you apart.
Manning went 50-15 in Denver, leading the Broncos to four AFC West titles, two Super Bowl trips, one championship, and in 2013 guided the highest-scoring offence in league history. All after retraining himself to throw following a series of neck fusion surgeries forced him to miss the 2011 season and he was cut by the Colts.
Manning choked up several times, especially when he listed all the things he'd miss about football: deciphering defences; the flights home after a big win; his teammates.
Coach Gary Kubiak recounted Manning's journey through six weeks of rehab and his return to the field in leading Denver to a comeback victory over the Chargers in the regular-season finale that secured the AFC's top seed.
"I know it was tough, and you were special along the way," Kubiak said, turning to the five-time MVP. "So, it was only nine months for me, but I'll remember it for a lifetime."
Manning revealed after the news conference he had an "orthotics guru" who had also helped other NFL QBs take up shop in his garage last November to fit him with some orthotics that helped him get back on the field. He added the torn ligament near his left heel feels fine and won't require surgery in retirement.
He informed Elway, Kubiak and Ellis of his decision to retire Saturday. The move gives the Broncos $19 million in cap space to try to sign several of their free agents, including Manning's heir apparent, Brock Osweiler.
With files from The Associated Press