New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning wants everyone to know that he’s fully aware of how old he is and has embraced his senior status—senior in terms of the football world.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being 36. I’m proud of it,” he said Friday following the Giants first full training camp practice. “I feel good. I can still make all the throws. I can still run around when I need to. So, it is what it is.”
He’s also fine with having his reps managed to help keep him fresh throughout what the Giants hope will be a lengthy run in 2017 ending with a Super Bowl championship.
Manning said he first began going on a pitch count when Ben McAdoo arrived in 2014 as the team’s new offensive coordinator.
In the three seasons since McAdoo’s arrival, Manning has averaged 605 regular-season passing attempts—a vast increase from his first 10 seasons where he averaged 500.8 attempts per season.
“I don’t know if I’m actually on an actual pitch count, but there’s been a system since (Ben) McAdoo’s been here,” Manning said.
“Kind of having a heavy throw day, you know, kind of dialing it down with a lighter day after a heavier load. There’s always been a system that we’ve talked about in the quarterback room on which days we’re going to kind of, you know, take more throws and which days you’re going to take a little less.
“And, it’s more like an individual period. Once practice starts and you’re going against defense, it’s all the same. It’s just kind of more the warmup period going routes versus air. Those type of things where you can, certain days, you know, you can limit 10-15 throws on certain days.”
While Manning has always taken excellent care of his body—in 2015 he sought the advice of a baseball pitching coach to help improve his arm strength while also ensuring proper recovery from throwing the ball so much in games and in practices—Father Time is standing by ready to yank the rug out from under Manning and the Giants at some point, a point that the team hopes to delay as long as possible.
“We are going to treat everyone differently,” head coach Ben McAdoo said when asked about the pitch count Manning is on. “We are not a ‘one size fits all’ program here.”
While the thinking is good, McAdoo was asked about striking a balance between getting guys like Manning enough work to get ready, especially now that he has three new receiving targets in receiver Brandon Marshall and tight ends Rhett Ellison and Evan Engram, while giving the quarterback enough rest.
“When we acclimate, we have to get the quarterback to the team periods,” McAdoo explained. “So, to acclimate a quarterback, he has to get loose and then stay warm and he has to make the throws he needs to make to stay warm so he can be competitive in the team period.
“You don’t want to warm him up, have him get cold, and then warm him up again. So, that’s the challenge. He makes the throws, he needs to throw at the beginning part of practice just to get to practice. He makes those throws to who he needs to make those throws to in practice to build chemistry. It’s not just random throws to your equipment guys or your ball boys or whoever the case may be, it’s to the players he needs to get the work in with.
“So, there is a plan for that in place. When he is a part of the normal rotation that’s when he has a chance to feel the ball with other players on the roster. But there is a strategic plan to when you acclimate and when you de-acclimate. It’s not just the arm, the arm is a small part of it. It’s the legs.”
Between the plan that’s in place and his own natural excitement to get to work with what might be one of the most talented rosters he’s had, Manning has the zest of a 23-year-old rookie.
“I’m excited about the year,” he said. “Just because knowing the guys and the character that we have on this team. Guys have worked hard in the spring; we got better and added some elements, and so I’m excited about raising our level of play and being explosive on offense and scoring points and having a strong defense. So, the possibilities are there. We just got to get to work and we got to make it happen.”
To make it happen, Manning wants to make sure he uses whatever reps he’s given to get on the same page with his teammates.
“There’s some talented guys out there that can come together as a group, as a team, as an offense and put it all together,” he said. “I’ve got to work with them these next months and into the season to get better, make sure we’re hitting all reps. Hitting everything we need to be so come game time we’re on the same page and we can connect on those plays and give us an opportunity to make some big plays.
“I think there is the possibility of us being a special group, a very talented group. It’s all going to come down to how do we perform, how do we practice and what are we doing game day.”