Peyton Manning’s testiest exchange after Sunday’s victory was with me, so let’s start with that.
Somebody asked if he was concerned about his exchanges with center Manny Ramirez after two of them led to fumbles, both of which the Broncos lost. On the first, Manning was under center. On the second, he was in the shotgun. Manning blamed himself for the first, saying he pulled out early. “Manny had a low one on the shotgun play,” he said of the second.
The Broncos turned the ball over three times Sunday — the third was a Manning interception for which he took full responsibility — which helped the 0-6 Jacksonville Jaguars keep the game close for a while.
Now about two years removed from multiple neck surgeries, Manning did not dive after either loose ball, as quarterbacks customarily do, which prompted my question, which prompted this exchange:
Me: Do you not go after those balls because of a fear of injury?
Manning: Um, not necessarily, no. So . . .
Me: I’m sorry, you don’t know?
Manning: What was the question?
Me: Is there a reason you don’t go after those balls on botched snaps?
Manning: I didn’t know that I . . . I can’t say that’s a . . . I mean, you’re basing it off, what, two?
Me: Those two plays.
Manning: Yeah, I mean, I can’t say that I don’t go after ‘em. I mean, maybe I didn’t think I could get ‘em, I guess. Be careful generalizing how I approach fumbled snaps off two plays.
Me: OK, let me ask why you didn’t go after those two.
Manning: I didn’t think I could get ‘em.
Earlier, coach John Fox was asked whether Manning not diving after the loose balls was a result of coaching or his own decision.
“I think at the end of the day he’s a pretty valuable member for our football team,” Fox said. “We don’t necessarily want him making tackles on interceptions and diving on fumbles. He’s been coached that.”
I was in the locker room at the time and didn’t hear Fox’s answer until later, which is why I asked the question of Manning. (Manning and Fox hold their interview sessions in an interview room some distance from the locker room.)
Fox’s answer makes perfect sense and made me wonder why Manning didn’t answer the same way, something like: “I’ve been coached not to do that. It’s hard, because your instinct is to go after the loose ball, but the coaches are trying to keep me healthy and I respect that.”
Maybe it was because I phrased my initial question poorly, suggesting he was afraid of getting hurt, and he bristled. That’s entirely possible. When Manning doesn’t like a question, he often makes it clear in not only the content but also the demeanor of his answer. In this case, he did both.
Manning’s testiness was also evident when a couple of people tried to get him to discuss his return to Indianapolis next week, which will be a big national story all week.
“I’ll probably cover that on Wednesday,” he said. “Do I have to talk Wednesday still? OK, I’ll do all that Wednesday.”
This, too, is his prerogative, but it demonstrated he was not in a mood to do the inquiring minds any favors.
None of it matters much, unless it comes up on a fumbled snap in a much tighter and more important game later on, but I think it reflected a couple of other things.