Manning opened Super Bowl week in New Jersey last Sunday night by saying his intent was to continue playing. Following Sunday night’s game, Manning was asked if the loss made it more likely he would come back for the 2014 season.
"I addressed those [questions] all week long," Manning said. "It doesn’t change anything on those ends as far as what I want to do."
Just after the team arrived a week ago, Manning made his strongest comments about returning. Just after the team arrived at its hotel from the airport, Manning was asked if he had given any thought to the Super Bowl being his last game.
"I certainly had a career change two years ago with my injury, with changing teams, so I've truly have been a one-year-at-a-time basis, so I really have no plans beyond this game," Manning said. "I had no plans coming into this season beyond this year. I think that’s kind [of] a healthy way to approach your career at this stage. I still enjoy playing football. I feel a little better than I thought I would at this point coming off that surgery. I still enjoy the preparation part of it, the work part of it. Everybody enjoys the game, everybody’s excited to play in a Super Bowl, but I think when you still enjoy the preparation, the work part of it, I think you still ought to be doing that. I think as soon as I stop enjoying it, if I can’t do this, if I can’t help the team, that’s when I stop playing. If that’s next year, and maybe it is, but I certainly want to continue to keep playing."
It is the premise Broncos team officials have been operating off of as well. The Broncos have to believe Manning's status for 2014 did not depend on the Super Bowl result but rather what a medical exam -- the same kind of exam Manning had following the 2012 season -- on his surgically repaired neck shows in the coming weeks.
If doctors give Manning the thumbs up, the team has always expected him to play in 2014. Manning has always said if the doctors told him, even during his recovery following spinal fusion surgery, he shouldn't play, that he would walk away from the game knowing, "it's been a good run."
Manning set NFL single-season records with 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns as the Broncos set a single-season record with 606 points.
In March 2012, the Broncos signed Manning to a five-year, $96 million deal that runs through the 2016 season. In May 2013, the Broncos purchased insurance to cover the team in the event Manning did not play in the 2014 season due to an injury unrelated to his surgically repaired neck suffered during the 2013 season.
The Broncos added the policy after Manning passed a postseason exam on his neck in early 2013. That 2013 exam kicked in a $20 million guaranteed salary for 2013 and a $20 million guaranteed salary for 2014, to go with some salary advances along the way. The insurance policy is for the 2014 season and covers the team for $10 million of that salary if Manning does not play because of a non-neck injury he suffered at some point in the 2013 season or postseason.