"Yes, this could be it. I am aware, this could be it," that's what Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning told the media at Opening Night of Super Bowl week in San Francisco.
Manning was surrounded by thousands of reporters and photographers who wanted to know, is he retiring?
"I haven’t made up my mind," Manning said in what may be the best and most truthful answer right now. Manning is getting ready to play a tough and talented Carolina Panthers football team in the Super Bowl. This really isn't a time to talk to his family and himself about the future.
Eight days ago, Manning told Patriots head coach Bill Belichick after the AFC Championship game, "Hey listen, this might be my last rodeo, so it sure has been a pleasure."
Manning explained Monday night, "I know there's talk about this conversation that I had with Belichick... that was not pre-planned. It was a spontaneous reaction."
"Sometimes you just want to tell somebody something, man-to-man," Manning said. "What I said was true, this could be it. I'm aware this could be it. I wanted to tell both of them (Brady and Belichick), 'I've really have enjoyed these games.'"
Manning joked that, "Brady's going to play until he's 70. Belichick is going to coach until he's 90. Maybe I hit the fountain of youth sometime in the next month and play another 10 years. Maybe we play in 10 more championships against each other, but just in case we don't, I took the time to tell them both, man to man, look them in the eye and shook their hands, and I'm glad that I did it."
"It was important to me that they knew that," Manning said.
As for when he'll make a decision?
"I don’t see myself knowing that until after the season," Manning said. "Whatever cliché you want to use, but I kind of stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand and just deal with this week that’s what I’ve done all season."
Manning has a difficult season, first getting pulled in a game, then missing several games because of a foot injury that put him in a cast.
"Coach Kubiak told me I’m not going to play against the Bears, I need some time to get healthy so I’m going to try and get healthy that week," Manning explained. "I’m not going to play against the Patriots, I’m going to try to get a little better this week, and this week, now you’re going to go in the indoor (facility) and throw some, let’s do that this week. Ok, we got to get back on the practice field this week, you get a chance to dress out against the Chargers, the backup quarterback, being in uniform at least I am available to make a contribution. I’ve really just tried to focus on that one week and not think too far ahead and that has really helped me out a lot."
Manning said now he needs one more week.
"I think had I been thinking about things past that it would’ve affected me and so it’s really served me well till this point and I’m going to stick with that for one more week and obviously have a big task at hand with the Panthers in the Super Bowl on Sunday," Manning said. "I’m going to stick to that philosophy."
Despite all the retirement questions, Manning is happy to be playing in the Super Bowl.
“I’m certainly honored to be here, this team is honored to be here," Manning said. "This is a unique and special opportunity and obviously we’re going to take advantage of it."
This is Manning's fourth Super Bowl.
"Playing my first Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLI, a different team, playing with the Indianapolis Colts, different head coach in Tony Dungy – that was a fun time," Manning said. "I’m playing in my fourth Super Bowl, which I’m happy for, but I’m happy for the guys playing in their first one and watching guys getting off that plane the other day, watching guys come and do this Media Day, first practice today, it’s just an awesome situation. I’m glad to be a part of it."
Many have remarked that the Broncos wouldn't be in the Super Bowl without Manning's backup, Brock Osweiler. Manning agrees.
"Brock Osweiler did a great job," Manning said. "We would not be here without the job that he did in the six games that he played in. "
Osweiler is still calling some shots -- he organized a team dinner for the offense on Sunday night.
"We went to dinner last night," Manning said. "Brock Osweiler organized a team dinner for the offense."
An offense that led the Broncos to the Super Bowl two years ago, but this year has been led by a defense that's No. 1 in the NFL.
"Our defense has just been exceptional all season long," Manning said. "They are the reason we’re here and, like I said a couple weeks ago, I’m just glad that I don’t have to play against them this year because they are that good."