Speaking to Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer, Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert didn't mince words about where his team stands with regards to Manning 10 days away from the Super Bowl.
“We don’t really care if this is his last game,” Tolbert said. “He’s played what—18, 19 years? He’s had enough, you know what I’m saying? It’s our turn.”
Taking a more philosophical approach to the situation with Manning, Panthers safety Tre Boston doesn't want to let Manning get the satisfaction of celebrating at his team's expense.
“So if a man has the last piece of pizza in the world, are you going to take that last piece?” Boston asked. “One of y’all got to live! One of us has to win, and I’m not trying to lose. It’s you and that one man. You gonna live or not? I’m trying to win. I don’t care who you are.”
Manning's future in the NFL has become one of Super Bowl 50's major talking points after cameras captured the Denver Broncos quarterback telling New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick after the AFC Championship Game this could be his final year, per Inside The NFL:
NFL Network's James Palmer later reported Manning hasn't mentioned anything about retirement to any of his Denver teammates.
Manning did tell Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post earlier this month he would "be lying if [he] said [he's] not thinking about" retirement.
There's no doubt Manning is feeling the effects of being a 39-year-old quarterback with 18 years in the NFL and multiple neck surgeries under his belt. He had nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions during the regular season, but he has played more efficiently with two touchdowns and no picks in the postseason.
Manning will be the sentimental favorite for many fans watching the Super Bowl on Feb. 7, but the Panthers have no reason to feel sympathy for a legend.
Carolina has had a marvelous season with 15 wins in the regular season and scored the second-most points in a conference championship game, dropping 49 on the Arizona Cardinals. One more win by the Panthers would put them in the conversation of greatest one-season teams in NFL history.
Nothing that Manning has done and may do after the Super Bowl should matter to the Panthers. Hoisting the Lombardi Trophy is the only thing of consequence when playing in the NFL.