Of course, his age and his neck are good reasons to bring it up, in addition to the contractual requirement he has to have his neck examined in the offseason. It is possible that this will be the final game that Manning ever plays.
But it doesn't seem likely, based on what he said on Monday. He was very non-committal to start, saying that he has "no plan" beyond the game this Sunday. That is good and well. But then he reveals this, which would lead one to believe that it would take something forcing him out of the game physically to make the Super Bowl his final game.
"When you still enjoy the preparation and the work part of it, I think you ought to be still doing that," he explained to reporters. "I think as soon as I stop enjoying it, if I can't produce, if I can't help a team, that's when I will stop playing. If that's next year, then maybe it is. I certainly want to continue to keep playing."
Teammate Wes Welker also said how much that Manning loves the game preparation side of things.
This is the exact opposite of something I remember from Kurt Warner.
He, too , was playing at a very high level. But there was a difference. He was ready to leave. He loved football, but the preparation side of things was weighing on him.
He was asked at his retirement announcement about how he felt about leaving a void at the position on the team and he said it was a balancing act.
"Yeah maybe I could have come back and filled that void physically, but mentally and emotionally was I in a situation where I could bring what I think this game deserves and what I think this organization and my teammates deserve from a leadership and from a quarterbacking standpoint?"
He did not think he was "willing to do that anymore."
He mentioned the "struggle every week" to live up to the standard of play he had established for himself.
It got to the point where, despite the fact that he knew he could continue to play at a high level, he reached the point that the amount of preparation it took to reach that level was more than he was willing to do. "If I'm here, I've got to be willing to give everything I've always given, and it just came to the point in time where I just don't know if I can do that physically or mentally what I always have," he said.
That was a man ready to leave the game.
Manning does not sound like that.
Plus, he is coming off the best season a quarterback has EVER had. He threw 55 touchdown passes. His team is in the Super Bowl. And he's doing it after having had FOUR NECK SURGERIES!!!
So while the whole Manning retirement narrative is alive and active, while it made me think of Warner, it doesn't sound like the two are anywhere in the same place. Warner was ready to let go of the workload. Manning still gets a thrill in game planning. As long as he has that, provided there is nothing imminent that says that he must hang up his cleats, he could be doing this for a few more years.
And he should. Football is better with Manning on the field.