Veteran Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning wasted no time in making it clear to the press after his team arrived in New Jersey that his focus was on winning the Super Bowl next Sunday and not on retirement.
"I've certainly had a career change two years ago with my injury, with changing teams, so I truly have been kind of a one-year-at-a-time basis. So I really have no plans beyond this game. I had no plans coming into this season beyond this year," Manning said.
The 37-year-old Manning knew the retirement questions were inevitable given his age and recent health history.
"Everybody enjoys the games; everybody's going to be excited to play in a Super Bowl. But I think when you still enjoy the preparation and the work part of it, I think you probably still ought to be doing that. I think as soon as I stop enjoying it, if I can't produce, if I can't help a team, that's when I'll stop playing," Manning said.
The veteran quarterback has used phrases like "light at the end of the tunnel" in referring to his career since the start of the playoffs.
Manning said in response to a question from reporters after the Broncos landed at the airport in Newark, New Jersey, that he planned to play in the 2014 season.
"I really don't know. I don't think about retiring. I haven't made any plans to retire. So I'm not really going to talk about it much, because it's not in my mind," the quarterback said.
Broncos management is aware that Manning's decision to play will not depend on what happens in Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks on Feb. 2.
The Broncos know that Manning's ability to play in the 2014 season hinges on medical tests on his surgically repaired neck and not on whether the team wins or loses the Super Bowl.
Manning said the possibility of retiring as a Super Bowl champion will not affect his decision to continue playing.
"In talking to Ray Lewis and in talking to John Elway, they couldn't play anymore. That was all they had to give and they truly left it all out there," Manning said.
Both Lewis, the legendary Baltimore Ravens linebacker, and Elway, a Hall of Fame member who quarterbacked the Broncos for 16 seasons and is now a team executive, retired after Super Bowl victories. EFE