Eli Manning ended his 16-year NFL career on his own terms. He was classy, well-prepared and walked away as a New York Giant.
In a roughly seven-minute speech touched with a little humor and almost no emotion, the 39-year-old Manning officially ended his career Friday at a packed news conference surrounded by his family, friends, and former teammates and coaches and the two Super Bowls he delivered to the storied franchise.
“From the very first moment I did it my way,” said the low-key Manning, who followed in steps of his father, Archie, and his brother Peyton as NFL quarterbacks. “I could not be someone other than who I am. Undoubtedly, I would have made the fans, the media, even the front office more comfortable being a rah-rah guy.
“But that’s not me,’’ Manning said. “Ultimately I choose to believe that my teammates and the fans learned to appreciate that. What they got was pure unadulterated Eli.’’
The one person who was emotional was Giants co-owner John Mara, who said Manning would be inducted into the team’s ring of honor at MetLife Stadium next season and that the quarterback’s No. 10 jersey was being retired.
Mara’s eyes welled, recalling the final game of Manning’s rookie season in 2004. The kid from Ole Miss by way of New Orleans rallied the Giants to a win over Dallas. It was the last game the late co-owner Wellington Mara watched.
“I can remember walking to the locker room with him afterward and him saying to me, ‘I think we found our guy.’ And how right he was,’’ John Mara said of his father.
The holder of almost every Giants’ passing record, Manning said he had no immediate plans. He admitted he would miss the time with teammates, the game preparation, the fans and the beers in the back of the bus after wins. He plans to spend time with his family and friends reliving the positive memories, ignoring the bad times, enjoying himself and being an assistant coach on his daughter’s third-grade basketball team. A job with the Giants is a possibility, he said.
“For most of my life, people have called me easy. Believe me, this is nothing easy about today,’’ said Manning, who has been the face of the organization with his play on the field and his charity work off it. “Wellington Mara always said, ‘Once a Giant, Always a Giant.’ For me, it’s ‘Only a Giant.’ '’
Manning was No. 1 overall pick by the Chargers in 2004 but he was traded to the Giants on draft day. He became the Giants’ quarterback after nine games and started the next 222 games overall in a streak that ended in December 2017.
Manning led the Giants to titles after the 2007 and ’11 seasons, beating the Patriots both times.
His first and the team’s third Lombardi Trophy was over the then-undefeated Patriots. It was highlighted by the David Tyree helmet catch and the game-winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress.
His second title game featured a late game-winning, 88-yard drive ignited by a 38-yard-pass to Mario Manningham right in front of the Patriots’ sideline.
It was classic Manning, not being bothered by the pressure of the moment.
“How good was he today?” said Tom Coughlin, who was the head coach of Manning’s two Super Bowl teams. “He was composed for the most part and refused to get too sentimental about things we all talk about.'’
Coughlin will always remember the Manning he saw on a daily basis.
“You just knew the quality of the man,’’ Coughlin said. “There he is sitting right in front of you every day, the start of every day was always a meeting. You knew you were going to get his best and it was going to be a focused best.”
His final season ended with him being replaced by rookie Daniel Jones as the starting quarterback after two games. He did have a final hurrah, starting and winning a game over the Dolphins after Jones was hurt in December.
“That was my farewell and a moment I will cherish forever,’’ said Manning.
Brown out of jail
NFL free agent Antonio Brown was released on bail Friday after a night in a Florida jail, where he turned himself in to face charges that he and his trainer attacked the driver of a moving truck that carried some of his possessions from California.
Broward County Judge Corey Amanda Cawthon set a $110,000 bond and imposed conditions including surrendering his passport, wearing a GPS monitor, possessing no weapons or ammunition, and agreeing to a mental health evaluation and random drug testing.
Brown was released a few hours after the hearing, his lawyer said.
Brown, 31, had appeared via video in a green jail outfit, with his wrists shackled. He spoke only to answer the judge’s questions.
Prosecutors had sought no bail, pointing out that the wide receiver is a wealthy sports figure who is a risk of flight if released. They noted that police had been called to his Florida home 18 times since December, for various reasons.
But one of Brown’s lawyers, Eric Schwartzreich, said Brown deserved credit for surrendering voluntarily and had no incentive to flee.
“He could have clearly left. He’s not going to go anywhere,” Schwartzreich said. “He wanted to turn himself in.”
Brown was one of the NFL’s top wide receivers during his nine seasons with the Steelers. He was traded to the Raiders last year but released before ever playing a regular-season game following several off-the-field incidents. He was then signed by the Patriots, who released Brown in September after a second woman in 10 days accused him of sexual misconduct.
A Hollywood police statement said Brown’s arrest warrant included charges of burglary with battery, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, and criminal mischief. Officials responded Tuesday afternoon to a disturbance call where the alleged victim said Brown and his trainer, Glenn Holt, hit him outside Brown’s Hollywood home.
Holt was arrested and charged with one count of burglary with battery, but officials couldn’t make contact with Brown at the time.
According to a police arrest report, the altercation began as an argument over Brown’s refusal to pay $4,000 to the driver to release his household goods. The driver called police and reported vandalism after he said Brown threw a rock as he drove away, causing a small dent and chipping the paint, an officer wrote.
The driver later returned when the manager of his company told him that Brown would now pay the $4,000, and an additional $860 for the damage and the driver’s time. Brown then paid the $4,000, but refused to pay the rest, so the driver returned to the van to call his company, and that’s when Brown “started another verbal argument,” police said.
“Brown stepped up into the cabin of the vehicle and started to physically grab and pull [the driver],” while Holt “entered the vehicle and grabbed the keys from the ignition,” police said. The driver tried to get the keys back and cut his hand in the process, according to the report.
Police say the driver suffered injuries including scratches on his neck, shoulder and arm, a cut on his finger, and a scrape on his stomach.
Holt then used the keys to open the truck, while Brown “and other unidentified friends” began removing boxes. The boxes, however, belonged to another client, police said. When the driver told them so, Brown and the others ‘‘started tossing the items back into the truck causing damage to some of the property,” an officer wrote.
Hollywood police were called again, and when officers arrived, Brown “retreated.
Saints fight release of e-mails in sex-abuse case
The New Orleans Saints are going to court to keep the public from seeing hundreds of e-mails that allegedly show team executives doing public relations damage control for the area’s Roman Catholic archdiocese to help it contain the fallout from a burgeoning sexual abuse crisis.
Attorneys for about two dozen men suing the church say in court filings that the 276 documents they obtained through discovery show that the NFL team, whose owner, Gayle Benson, is devoutly Catholic, aided the Archdiocese of New Orleans in its “pattern and practice of concealing its crimes.”
“Obviously, the Saints should not be in the business of assisting the Archdiocese, and the Saints’ public relations team is not in the business of managing the public relations of criminals engaged in pedophilia,’’ the attorneys wrote in a court filing. ‘‘The Saints realize that if the documents at issue are made public, this professional sports organization also will be smearing itself.’’
The Saints and their attorneys emphatically disputed any suggestion that the team helped the church cover up crimes. In a statement Friday, the Saints said the archdiocese sought its advice on how to handle media attention that would come from its 2018 release of its list of more than 50 clergy members “credibly accused” of sexual abuse.
“The advice was simple and never wavering. Be direct, open, and fully transparent, while making sure that all law enforcement agencies were alerted,” the team said.
The team added that it has “no interest in concealing information from the press or public” and that it “merely requested the court to apply the normal rules of civil discovery.” However, attorneys for the Saints argued in court papers this month that the 2018-19 e-mails were intended to be private and should not be “fodder for the public.”
The archdiocese is also fighting the release of the e-mails.
Attorneys for the men suing the church say “multiple” Saints personnel, including senior vice president of communications Greg Bensel, used their team e-mail to advise church officials on “messaging” and how to soften the impact of the archdiocese’s release of the list of credibly accused clergy.
‘‘The information at issue bears a relationship to these crimes because it is a continuation of the Archdiocese’s pattern and practice of concealing its crimes so that the public does not discover its criminal behavior,’’ wrote plaintiffs’ attorneys Richard Trahant, John Denenea Jr., and Soren Gisleson. “And the Saints joined in.”
Attorneys for the Saints acknowledged in a court filing that the team assisted the archdiocese in its publishing of the list but said that was an act of disclosure — ‘‘the opposite of concealment.”
In its statement, the team said its executives and ownership “remain offended, disappointed, and repulsed by the actions of certain past clergy. We remain steadfast in support of the victims who have suffered and pray for their continued healing.”
Browns’ Hunt cited — but not for drugs
Browns running back Kareem Hunt was cited for a traffic violation, and police said they found marijuana in his car.
He was pulled over Tuesday afternoon in Rocky River, Ohio — on Cleveland’s west side — while driving on Interstate 90. An incident report said officers smelled marijuana in the car.
Hunt, who was suspended eight games by the NFL last season for two physical altercations, was put in a police cruiser while his vehicle was searched. The report said police found a black backpack on the rear seat and “small amounts” of marijuana were found in three places. The marijuana was seized as evidence.
Hunt was cited for speeding only and released. There was no drug charge and no indication of how fast he was driving. Hunt is from the Cleveland area.
The Browns say they are aware of Hunt’s situation and gathering more information. An NFL spokesman said “we are aware of the matter but will decline further comment.”
Hunt, 24, was signed by Cleveland to a one-year contract last February, two months after he was released by Kansas City. The Chiefs cut him shortly after a video surfaced of Hunt shoving and kicking a woman at a Cleveland hotel. He’s scheduled to be a restricted free agent in March.
Hunt expressed remorse and did not have any issues last season with the Browns. He rushed for 285 yards and one touchdown after serving his league ban. As a rookie, Hunt led the NFL with 1,327 yards in 2017.
Vikings’ Paton withdraws name from Browns’ GM search
Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton withdrew his candidacy Friday for Cleveland’s general manager vacancy, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.
The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the search process. Paton had a second interview Wednesday for the position with the Browns, the latest opportunity the well-respected lieutenant has turned down to stay with the Vikings.
Paton has been in Minnesota’s front office for 13 seasons, with general manager Rick Spielman running the football operations. New Browns coach Kevin Stefanski had been an assistant for the Vikings during Paton’s entire time with the team, an established relationship that put Paton on the short list with Cleveland.
The Browns have met with two other known candidates: Philadelphia vice president of football operations Andrew Berry and New England college scouting director Monti Ossenfort. Berry worked in Cleveland’s front office from 2016-18 and was well-liked by owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, who have prioritized a strong alignment between coach and GM a priority to avoid some of the dysfunction that has undermined the franchise’s growth.