KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Matt Cassel must have felt like the odd man out, though he's too professional to admit it.
The veteran quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs knew that the front office was actively pursuing Peyton Manning this offseason — team owner Clark Hunt even acknowledged the interest. But Cassel refused to mope about losing his job, instead standing pat while things got sorted out.
Manning wound up with AFC West rival Denver. Cassel is back under center for the Chiefs.
"It was one of those things, the Kansa City Chiefs were very open with me," Cassel said during a recent interview. "(General manager) Scott Pioli and everybody was open about the fact that they were going to reach out to Peyton. For me, I don't take any disrespect."
Cassel was the first to admit that Manning is one of the best players ever to play the position. The all-but-certain Hall of Famer has been to the Pro Bowl 11 times, voted All-Pro five times, and the league's most valuable player four times while with the Indianapolis Colts.
It would have been hard to make the argument that bringing in Manning, despite the injury problems that kept him off the field last season, would have been a bad idea.
Cassel understands that reality.
"Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning, and he's one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, so how can you take disrespect from that?" he asked. "The fact is he didn't end up here, and we're going to be competing against him twice a year, which should be fun."
It'll be a lot more fun if Cassel performs like he did during the 2010 season, when he led the Chiefs to the AFC West title, than he did during a miserable 2011 season.
Cassel went to the Pro Bowl two years ago, throwing for 3,116 yards with 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions — the best TD-to-INT ratio of his career. He completed nearly 60 percent of his throws while showing enough moxie to come back quickly from an appendectomy.
Most people figured he was primed for big things last season. Then came Week 1 against Buffalo.
Cassel was hurried all afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium, throwing for a mere 119 yards with a single touchdown and an interception. His abysmal quarterback rating of 64.5 in the 41-7 loss set the tone for his season — really, the tone for the entire team's season.
Cassel ended up throwing for 1,713 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions before he was hurt late in a November loss to Denver. Cassel landed on injured reserve along with teammates Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles — the latter two key offensive players whose season-ending knee injuries in part contributed to Cassel's rough year.