EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Plenty has changed for Eli Manning since his first training camp with the New York Giants. Back then he was just trying to earn the respect of established teammates such as Michael Strahan, Tiki Barber, Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard. These days he’s trying to fend off rookie quarterback Daniel Jones rather than beat out Kurt Warner.
It’s the price of being the longest-tenured player in Giants history entering his 16th season. Manning has a young hotshot breathing down his neck and, whether it’s immediate or not, some competition to be the starter.
He’s viewing it the same as he did when he was on the other side of the equation.
“… every training camp you come in excited, whether you had a great year the year before or a bad year, it doesn’t really matter.” Giants QB Eli Manning on his mindset entering camp
“You deal with it,” Manning said Wednesday when the Giants’ veterans reported for training camp. “I got a job to go out there and do my best. It hasn’t changed for 16 years and it never will. You go out there and are competing against the defense. Whenever I am up, I am competing versus the defense and I am trying to get my players to play their best and make plays. That’s the mindset. Try to make improvements in every practice. Have goals to get better at certain things every day and make those strides of improvement at every practice and that’s the only mindset and that’s all you can concern yourself with.”
The Giants don’t intend to handle Manning, 38, any differently than they have in the past. Coach Pat Shurmur didn’t seem inclined to limit his throws throughout the summer or save him from the rigors of training camp.
Manning is perhaps extra-motivated and inclined to prove he can still play at a high level and win games. He looks the part (slimmer and in good shape) and insists his arm is “very strong.”
There is no doubt Manning believes he can still make all the necessary throws. He views this as yet another opportunity to do something special, even if the past few seasons haven’t gone well.
“It feels the same, in the sense that every training camp you come in excited, whether you had a great year the year before or a bad year, it doesn’t really matter,” said Manning, who threw 21 touchdown passes with 11 interceptions while the Giants went 5-11 last season. “It’s a clean slate. It’s a fresh start. You’re going to have new teams, you’re going to have new players, sometimes new coaches in different areas and even the players that you have returning, a lot of it, it’s young guys who now are a year older, they are a little better and so it’s always going to be a new experience. Just excited to take advantage of the opportunities in front of us this season.”
Excited was Manning’s word of choice on the first day of Giants training camp. He said it four times in his first 15 seconds at the podium.
It’s clearly the mindset of a player who is savoring the gift of another season. There admittedly is an uptick in the appreciation of another season being able to play the game.
“I think it’s more the longevity of things. You have more an appreciation,” Manning said. “You don’t know how long you get to play this or how long you get to do it. I think you are here and you don’t know what the future holds. When you are younger, you assume you will keep playing and you assume you will be back playing and don’t think about it now. There’s that mindset that you don’t know the future of things, which is fine. I think it makes you appreciate being here and wanting to take advantage and prepare more and be ready to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Manning will be the starter as long as he wins games. Who knows what the future holds from there. He is in the final year of his current contract and Jones is waiting in the wings.
Shurmur said Wednesday that so far Jones has “exceeded expectations.” He raved about his ability to throw the ball and move around the pocket and his smarts, even if it was all expected from the Giants’ brass.
“We really haven’t seen anything that he can’t do in terms of playing quarterback,” Shurmur said.
This is different for Manning. There was never this kind of investment in a quarterback behind him. It eventually happens after this many years in the league.
In the meantime, Manning is making the most out of what he can control, not reflecting on his accomplishments or what his future might hold.
“I never got worried about playing a certain amount of years or this or that,” he said. “It’s just all about taking advantage of this year. Making something special with this year, this team, this season.”
Just like that rookie year.