As NFL team owners, general managers and head coaches met with reporters at the annual meetings this week, Giants quarterback Eli Manning was answering his own set of questions as part of a panel discussion for the NYIT Center for Sports Medicine/Head Injury Association.
Along with naming the most gifted athlete he’s ever played with (Odell Beckham Jr.), the NFL veteran talked about the hardest hit he’d ever taken, and remembered the first game of his career on the bad end of a tackle by Eagles’ Jerome McDougle in 2004.
“It was my welcome-to-the-NFL play,” he said. “Fifteen seasons later I have not taken a bigger hit. That’s a good thing. I do not know if I could take that hit now.”
Manning also named Philadelphia as his toughest road games each season, and noted that it’s a different kind of environment... from fans of all ages.
“You go there, and that 9-year-old kid is giving you the double finger,” he said. “Not a thumbs-up. Not, ‘We’re No. 1.’ And he said something about my mom; I had to Google what it was. It’s just different. It’s a different culture.”
He has been at it so long, he said, that he has seen young Philadelphia fans grow up before his eyes. “Now I see him and he’s got his 9-year-old kid with him,” Manning said, smiling. “Same deal. It runs in the families down there.”
The quarterback has had plenty of experience playing the Eagles on the road, and has only won six matchups in Philly. His overall record against his NFC East rival isn’t much better, collectively going 10-20 during his 15 year career.
Eagles fans might get a bad rep, but for players suiting up for the home team, they create one of the best home-field advantage environments in the NFL. And, they aren’t supposed to make things comfortable for the opponent, let alone a division foe. It’s just never going to happen.
So, whether 9-year-olds are flipping the bird to opponents or yelling obscenities from the stands, they’re showing support for the home team, and that’s all that really matters.
Despite being 38 years old, Manning said he was still passionate about the game, and Giants GM Dave Gettleman doesn’t seem to be trying to usher in any kind of new era in New York — at least, not anytime soon. Which means the Eagles should still get to see Eli a couple times a year, and he’ll get at least one more chance to be blasted by kids in Philly.