Jordan Raanan, ESPN Staff Writer 397d

Eli Manning set to tie one of Peyton's most impressive accomplishments

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Through all the wins, losses, touchdowns, completions, interceptions, fumbles, Super Bowls, controversies and there has been one constant for the New York Giants since midway through the 2004 season: Eli Manning has started at quarterback.

This Sunday when the Giants play on the road against the San Francisco 49ers will be Manning's 208th consecutive regular season start since he took over for Kurt Warner. In that time he's won two Super Bowls, won 109 regular season games, thrown for over 50,000 yards and thrown 332 touchdown passes with 221 interceptions.

The streak is impressive on its own merit, but this number has a bit more meaning than most. Manning will tie his brother, Peyton Manning, for second on the all-time list of consecutive starts for a quarterback on Sunday.

In typical Eli fashion, he managed to downplay the significance of the impressive accomplishment or any sort of competition with his brother. He will have started every game for the equivalent of 13 full seasons.

"I mean, I guess yes and no [it has meaning]," Manning said of making start No. 208 and tying his brother. "I'm happy to be out there each and every week with my teammates. That's a goal of mine to stay healthy, to play through injuries, to be accountable and, so, like I said, that is important to me to be there for my team and my teammates.

"But, it's not about breaking a record though."

Manning, 36, is never going to break the record. Brett Favre started 297 consecutive games from 1992-2010. Manning would have to play almost six more full seasons top Favre's streak.

Even though he said this summer he would like to play into his 40s, approaching Favre's ironman record seems unrealistic. Manning has two years remaining on his contract with the Giants.

"[Favre's] a good ways away," Manning conceded. "So, we'll see."

With the Giants (1-7) struggling this season, there is a possibility the streak could eventually end this year. Once he passes Peyton next week when the Giants host the Kansas City Chiefs, the streak -- while still impressive -- isn't all that important to extend. Coach Ben McAdoo has already admitted there could be a point later in the season where it would benefit the organization to take a look at some of the younger players.

That means Davis Webb. He was drafted in the third round earlier this year, and has spent this spring, summer and season looking over Manning's shoulder watching and learning. What he sees is a quarterback with a potential Hall of Fame resume who is among the best of all-time at staying healthy.

His availability has been his best ability. It's not an accident either. There's an art to knowing how to absorb a hit.

"It's definitely a skill," backup quarterback Geno Smith said. "You can't practice it because you don't get hit in practice. But 208 straight starts you'll get good practice at it on Sundays. You just have to go with the hit. It's like when you fight for the extra yards or you're trying to stay up, sometimes they got you. Tom Brady does it, Peyton did it and those guys play forever."

It's easier said than done. Smith was injured last year trying to avoid a sack. When he was hit by the second defender he tore his knee. He missed the remainder of the 2016 season before signing with the Giants this offseason.

Manning has dealt with some injuries along the way. He separated his shoulder in 2007 and was expected to miss several weeks. He didn't miss a game.

His durability isn't lost on his coaches.

"Well, he's a true pro in terms of taking care of his body," said offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, who was Manning's quarterbacks coach in 2010-11. "I don't imagine him doing anything other than, when he gets home, spending quality time with his wife and kids. He's not out running the streets, obviously, but you know, he does -- you look at what he's eating. It's hard to find him putting anything but nutritious things in his body and you guys have all documented the whole how he goes through his routine as far as stretching his arms, you know, stretching his shoulders and so forth. His commitment is full time. It's not just what he does in the film room and preparing himself. It's not just what he does on the practice field.

"But, I think in all phases of his life he has a great balance and a perspective and certainly has served him well through this long streak."

It has gotten him through 13 professional seasons. And when Manning did break his ankle in the season finale in 2013 against the Washington Redskins, he was back before the start of training camp. Nothing has slowed him down.

It's a remarkable feat given the demands of playing quarterback at the NFL level.

"That's amazing at any position with how dangerous this sport is," Smith said. "Anything can happen on Sundays. It takes a little luck but it also takes a lot of grit. You have to fight through some pain, some injuries. I'm sure he's done that. And you have to be smart, get the ball out and not take on three guys."

That, like staying on the field, has never been a problem for the ultra-durable Mannings.

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