ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — What’s whispered into Bill Belichick’s ear stays in Bill Belichick’s ear.
Peyton Manning may have told him, "This might be my last rodeo," but he’s not telling anyone else anything about his thoughts on retirement.
NFL Network cameras caught an intriguing exchange between Denver’s quarterback and New England’s coach after Denver’s 20-18 win over the Patriots in the AFC championship game on Sunday.
Manning didn’t want to talk about the eavesdropped exchange on Thursday, however.
He joked, "I don’t know if it’s been confirmed or not, you know? What happened to private conversations on the 50-yard line? I guess they just don’t exist anymore. So, no confirmation on that whatsoever. … We’re on to Carolina."
The Broncos (14-4) face the Panthers (17-1) in Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7.
What Manning said to Belichick is apparently more than he’s told his own coach regarding his thoughts on retirement as this 18th and very trying season comes to a conclusion.
"He hasn’t said anything to me," Gary Kubiak said. "I know he’s enjoying the playoffs and enjoying this opportunity with this football team. I can’t speak for him. He’ll have to answer those questions. But I know it’s special to have him back in the huddle leading the way and I’m just very proud of his work getting back to be in this position."
Manning’s favourite target, receiver Demaryius Thomas, said Manning hasn’t said anything to his teammates, either.
"Not at all. We’re assuming," Thomas said. "You never know with him. He hasn’t said anything, so I really don’t know what he’s going to do."
Manning, who regained his starting job this month after missing the Broncos’ final seven starts while dealing with a torn plantar fascia near his left heel, was so loose Thursday that his news conference at times resembled a stand-up routine at a comedy club.
Asked about the Panthers’ propensity for fast starts and the need to keep up with Carolina, Manning said: "As you watch the game unfold, you see the scoreboard and it’s 7-0, it’s 14-0, it’s like the guy singing the national anthem is still on the field, you know, the game hasn’t started yet."
At one point, Manning was asked for his recollections of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson in the league’s labour negotiations, and Manning said he didn’t have a good answer for the reporter although, "labour negotiations are pretty boring if I can recall. There’s one word for you."
Another question was about the four consecutive years a dual-threat QB has played in the Super Bowl and the 50-year streak of a pocket passer playing in the big game.
"That is 100 per cent for you guys to decide," Manning said when asked if there were indeed two different types of QBs now. "… I guess the only thing I’ll say is it seems like every year they say the pocket passer is a dying breed. I kept saying, ‘I hope that’s not true. I will be out of a job and my brother will be pretty close behind me.’ "
Kubiak said he’ll lean on his leaders next week in San Francisco to make sure the team stays focused on football. Asked what his role was in that plan, Manning said, "Set the curfew, basically."
"I threw out 9," he said. "That didn’t get a lot of positive views."