NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Every time Peyton Manning sets foot in the locker room lately, he comes across No. 18 jerseys that other members of the Denver Broncos left for him to sign.
Nothing out of the ordinary. Happens all season. Except nowadays, instead of asking him to donate an autograph for some sort of fundraising endeavor, teammates are eyeing a personal keepsake — as if they're worried they won't get another chance.
No matter that the 37-year-old Manning has made plain he has no intention of retiring right now, whether his Broncos win or lose against the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday's Super Bowl.
"A lot of them had a note: 'Sign this for me.' So I must have signed 10 jerseys for my teammates," Manning said Tuesday at media day, "which makes me think they think I probably should be out of here after this game."
As he spoke, Manning jutted out his right thumb, using the universal symbol for "Take a hike!"
"I feel," he added, "like they're dropping hints to me."
The anecdote was told with a chuckle, part of Manning's amused take on all the questions he's getting lately about his "legacy" and his future.
"All these hints at, like, retirement," Manning replied when a reporter wanted to know about post-playing plans. "I guess everybody's trying to get rid of me."
Just to emphasize the point, Manning noted that he hasn't "thought a whole lot about" what he wants to do when he decides to stop suiting up.
When Manning returned to the NFL after a series of neck operations that sidelined him for the entire 2011 season, there was plenty of talk about when — and even whether — he would get back to the level of play that earned four MVP awards and one Super Bowl title with the Indianapolis Colts.
He ignored others' voices. But he acknowledged Tuesday he couldn't ignore his own questions then.
"I certainly had my concerns that entire time," Manning said.
"The doctors just couldn't tell me anything definite. They wouldn't say, 'You're going to be back at this time, at 100 percent strength level.' They couldn't tell me," he continued. "So when the doctors can't tell you that, how do you really know?"
Manning recalled what some said as he prepared to move from the Colts to the Broncos.
"There was a lot of 'narrative' out there on what I couldn't do: 'He can't throw to the left.' And, 'He really struggles throwing to the right.' I'm like, 'How do they know? I've been throwing in private the entire time,'" Manning said.
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