Since entering the NFL in 2004, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has accomplished more than most quarterbacks in league history.
From being a two-time Super Bowl MVP, to setting franchise records, to come-from-behind victories, to carving out places for himself in the top-10 of every major statistical category for quarterbacks, Eli has done a lot. This year he has accomplished something no other Giant ever has: He is starting his 16th season in blue. Hall of Famers Mel Hein and Michael Strahan and former quarterback Phil Simms are the only other Giants to play 15 seasons.
Considering the average length of an NFL career is 3.3 years, the average length of a rookie who makes the opening day roster of a team that drafts him is 6 years, the average career of a first round pick lasts 9.3 years, and the average Pro Bowler plays 11.7 years in the NFL, a 16-year long career is truly noteworthy.
In typical “Eli” fashion, number 10 doesn’t care about any of that.
“I never got worried about playing a certain amount of years or this or that,” Eli said on Wednesday. “It’s just all about taking advantage of this year. Making something special with this year, this team, this season.”
“It feels the same, [as any other year]” he added. “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. 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.”
That being said, Eli is aware of what year it is, and how long he has been at this. It would be impossible for him to not be reflective at all on his lengthy career — or to avoid having it give him some perspective.
Eli said, “I think it’s more the longevity of things. You have more appreciation, 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 that you don’t know what the future holds. I think when you’re younger, you assume you’re going to keep playing, you just assume you will be back playing and you don’t think about it. Now there is 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.”
On preparing his body
The old saying goes that Father Time is undefeated. Every player who has ever put on a helmet and pads has only ever succeeded in holding off the inevitable. And like every player, and like each of the last 15 years, Eli has been working to get himself ready and stave off the relentless march of time.
“It’s just a different working hard,” Eli said, when asked what has changed as he has aged. “When you’re younger, you’re working hard on the mental aspect of things. Hey, I have to learn these protections, I have to learn these blitzes, I have to learn what call I have to make to pick up this blitz. What’s this play? You know that stuff that over 16 years you get to learn those things and you have a better feel for picking up a blitz and what call you are going to make to pick up certain things. Now, it’s the work on the maintenance and the stretching and getting loose. Keeping the arm strength and keeping the strength and those things. Keeping the body fresh every day. Its more work at that as you get older. The hard work never changes it just kind changes what areas you are working hard at.”
So on what areas have Eli focused his hard work? “Just staying strong,” he said.
“I thought I had a good offseason in the weight room,” he added. “Getting the body feeling good, keep it where it was, or make improvements in that sense. From the weight room, from the conditioning, throwing and keeping the arm strong and getting it prepared.”
Of course, the off-season work is just part of a ramping up process — getting the body back into shape after giving it time off to recover from the season. The real work begins now.
“Training camp is a time where I think your arm gets tested more than any other time,” Eli said. “Where you have four practices in a row or you’re going to have eight practices in nine days. You’re not really used to doing that and so you kind of want to make sure you are not taking too much time off and you have to make sure you are throwing enough to keep your arm strong enough to handle that amount. Doing all those things, but also you take the time to be with the family and to be away and enjoy the summer a little bit because you know once the day comes, it’s football. It’s football for the next six months, so that’s the mindset and being ready to get accomplished everything you want in the summer off your list so you can worry about your football goals.”
What Eli wants out of 2019
Right now, nobody knows quite what to expect from the Giants. They have added 10 draftees, many more undrafted players, and a number of free agents. In 2018 the Giants parted ways with players who accumulated 12,378 snaps in 2017 (the second biggest roster change in the NFL per OverTheCap). A year later, their team has been heavily reshuffled once again. How it all comes together remains to be seen and nobody really knows how the Giants will play this year.
But Eli, for one, wants to do everything he can to help the team improve and get back to winning.
Eli said, “It’s all about this year and obviously we want to win more football games. We want to get off to a faster start and I think with the second year within an offense with a new coach and new staff, it should be smoother in that sense, but we have to work at it. We have to work extremely hard to make those improvements to make those jumps that we need to make to win those football games. I think just having a number of guys who are returning and the additions that we made and the players that we have, that opportunity is there for us to make that jump. It’s a matter of how hard we work, how committed we are during this next month to get us ready.”
In his speech before Super Bowl 46, Justin Tuck told the team that he wanted the players who don’t know what winning the final game of the year felt like to find out how it feels to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Before training camp really gets started, Eli echoed those sentiments.
“It’s all about what I can do this year and do right now,” Eli said. “I think about the players we have on this team. I want those guys to experience some of the success that we’ve had here at the Giants in the past. To make playoffs and win championships and get on win streaks. To feel like you are playing better than anybody else in the league at that moment. Those are fun and great memories, but I’m not reflecting on those. I want these guys who maybe haven’t had that to experience that.”