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Eli Manning deserves benefit of the doubt in memorabilia scandal

Giants’ QB has earned that throughout his career

6th Annual NFL Honors - Show
Eli manning after winning the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Every time there is something going on in East Rutherford, N.J. involving the New York Giants — a press conference, the draft, OTAs, mini-camp, training camp, whatever — I face a decision. Is whatever is happening at the Giants facility worth the 292-mile round trip from my home outside Albany, and a possible hotel stay?

Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.

One of those times it ended up being worth it was Thursday. GM Jerry Reese held his annual pre-draft press conference, which was billed as the primary reason for media being invited to Quest Diagnostics Center. A Reese pre-draft press conference, though, is not an earth-moving event. The same thing always happens. Questions get asked and Reese gives a slew of cliche-ridden non-answers that give away very little information. It’s a fun game, but not worth spending nearly six hours round trip in a car to witness.

What made Thursday worth the trip was that there was also player availability. Would Eli Manning, mired in controversy for the first time in his career thanks to a memorabilia scandal, come out and talk to the media? Would he address the accusations that apparent “game worn” equipment he passed to memorabilia dealers was not actually game worn?

Well, Manning did speak to the media. And he did address those allegations. What made it worth the trip for me wasn’t what Manning said. It was how he said it. I have never seen Manning like he was on Thursday.

This was not Easy Eli. This wasn’t politically correct Eli, give an answer without saying too much Eli, disappointed after a loss Eli, or fall on his sword and take the blame when it really wasn’t his fault Eli. This was Angry Eli.

Just watch the first 15 seconds of this. There is more, but that will give you what you need to know. And Mike Florio’s opinion is irrelevant.

I don’t honestly know if Manning did anything wrong in this instance. Quite honestly, I would be shocked if he did. The latest news on this story is that Manning is now accusing the memorabilia dealer of omitting evidence to paint a picture of Manning’s culpability.

I do know Manning deserves better than what he got from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who said he was a “liar” who “got caught.” Forget that Christie is a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. He has his own ethical issues to deal with, and is the last person who should be throwing stones.

For 13 years, Manning has done what no other New York athlete not named Derek Jeter has been able to do in recent times. He’s been able to stay out of the spotlight, away from Page 6, away from controversy in a city where that simply doesn’t happen.

Manning admitted Thursday that the presumption of guilt and some of the resulting shots hurled his way have “definitely” bothered him.

“I have done everything the right way and have been a standup citizen and obviously you get — someone starts something up and everybody turns against you very quickly, it hurts a little bit,” Manning said.

“I’m handling it. Obviously this was first reported three years ago. I’ve been dealing with it for a long time, but just more angry than anything having to deal with it and knowing that I’ve done nothing wrong and still being attacked.”

Manning has always been a class act, representing the Giants well in both good and bad times. He’s done wonderful work in the community for children. He was named co-winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award last season.

Until it is proven otherwise, I am going to err on the side of giving Manning the benefit of the doubt. I will believe what my eyes have told me over the years, and what Brandon Jacobs recently said, that Manning “don’t have a bad bone in his body.”

From what Manning has shown us over the years, I believe he deserves that presumption of innocence.

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