Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning downplayed the focus on his future, as well as the NFL's investigation into a report that linked him to human growth hormone, as his team prepares to face the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com passed along comments from Manning following Thursday's practice. He isn't concerned about the league's inquiry into the Al Jazeera America report and continued to discredit the merits of any links to HGH.
"I do welcome it. It's no news to me," Manning said. "I still stand by what I said then that it's garbage from the first day that it came out, garbage today."
The 39-year-old superstar also avoided giving any glimpse into his thought process concerning whether the Super Bowl will mark his final NFL game. The questions on that topic have intensified since audio was released in which he told New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick it could be his "last rodeo," per NFL Network (via Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz of USA Today).
"That hasn't been confirmed," Manning said. "What happened to private conversations on the 50-yard line? They don't exist anymore. No confirmation to that whatsoever. We are on to Carolina."
Manning's return to the lineup helped the Broncos secure the top seed in the AFC. They proceeded to protect their home-field advantage with victories over the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Patriots to earn a place in the Super Bowl.
It's been far different from many of the quarterback's previous forays into the playoffs, though. Rather than being forced to carry the load, the Tennessee product has been a complementary piece with the defense leading the way. He has just two touchdown passes in the pair of postseason wins.
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After throwing 17 interceptions in 10 regular-season contests, Manning has placed an emphasis on protecting the football since his return from a foot injury. His greatest asset now is his ability to read defenses.
Whether those struggles will lead him to retire after the Super Bowl is still a mystery. It's also unclear if the game's result could impact that decision or if he's already made the call but doesn't want to distract from the preparation by making it public.
Manning is set to go down as one of the greatest players in NFL history, though the HGH review will hover over him until the league releases the results. For now, he's just focused on trying to help the Broncos win their third Super Bowl title.
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