The perception (one that's partly fueled by the media, for sure) is that football is a brutal endeavor full of barbarians in uniforms. But it's more a fraternity than it is a gladiatorial spectacle. Take, for example, what Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning had to say about his counterpart Sunday, the Pats' Tom Brady.
“He plays for another team and he reached out to me and said 'Hey anything I can do to help the rehab, miss seeing you out there,'” said Manning (via the Denver Post). Manning underwent four neck surgeries in a 12-month period that kept him on the sidelines for the 2011 season and eventually led to the Colts releasing him this spring.
“When you’re injured, and you’re not out there playing, you kind of find out who’s with you and who’s not. Tom consistently throughout the season would check in with me. I appreciate that. It says a lot.”
But empathy is a two-way street. After Brady tore his ACL during a Week 1 game against the Chiefs in 2008, Manning was there for him, too. (All that's missing is a campfire, Bill Belichick on guitar and a rousing rendition of Kumbaya.)
We're guessing all the hand-holding and high-fiving ceases when game time rolls around and, well, we'd expect nothing different. Broncos coach John Fox was asked about both players on Wednesday.
"When you look at both of those quarterbacks, you’re looking at two of the best quarterbacks to play over the last decade," he said. "I don’t think, without a doubt, when their careers are over -- hopefully not any time soon for either one of them -- they’ll be first-ballot Hall of Fame players. I think their body of work to this point -- not that it’s nearly over yet -- but to this point, it would be hard to argue."
Brady has said previously that he plans to play into his 40s. Manning would like to keep things going beyond this year but he's not yet ready to commit to a specific time frame.
"I don’t have that number in my mind quite like he does, but I still have a passion for it, I still enjoy the preparation, the work of it, the offseason, the Mondays, the Tuesdays, the game planning, I still enjoy that," he said. "So I think until I stop having a passion for that, until I can no longer produce or be effective, that’s when I’ll stop playing -- when I can’t produce or I just don’t enjoy it."
As for returning to football after that year off, Manning has put that in the rearview. "I know this is the first time I’ve spoken to you all, but I’ve talked about that quite a bit since March and training camp and I’m just about talked out of the topic if you don’t mind. I’m kind of past that point."
Sounds like something Belichick would say. Now all that's left is to play the game.