Q: What is your relationship like with Alex Smith? Manning: I have talked to Alex a few times on the phone. I had a chance to meet him a few times this summer. Through the years I've tried to form some relationships with most quarterbacks. Certainly I can relate to Alex being the first pick and coming in with a lot of expectations and pressure. I've enjoyed following him in college. I gave him my number and told him that if I could help him in anyway feel free to call me. Q: Has he called you? Manning: We hadn't talked since this summer. I talked to him one time in a fairly extensive conversation about NFL life in general. He had some questions for me. I don't try to preach to anybody, whether it's any quarterback or even my little brother. But if people have questions for me, especially young quarterbacks, I'm glad to answer them. Q: Can you remember what it was like being a rookie and going up against the pressures of getting sacked? Manning: Yes I can. It's definitely a transition from college ball to pro ball. I think the first thing that you want to do is get comfortable in your on offense. You have to get timing with your receivers, know just where there going to be on this play, know where your check downs and your lay-offs are. Then you have to try to worry about the defense. I think the game is more specialized and complex now than it was in my rookie year as far as the third-down and blitz packages. They change every single week. It's certainly a lot on a quarterback's plate, but I think the first thing you have to do is get the timing down with your receivers and then you have to worry about the defense. Q: Where do you stand at on the debate of letting a rookie quarterback play his first year or play apprentice for a while? Manning: I say play, play, play, play, play, play. That is what I did. The sooner you play, that's the sooner you taste the live bullets on the field. You get to see what the blitz is like and you know where your receiver is going to be. You can only learn so much on a chalkboard. I wish Eli would have played early. The sooner you play, the sooner you get used to the speed of the game. My rookie year I got more and more comfortable every single week. That's really what it's all about. Q: How well do you remember your first start as a rookie? Manning: We played the Dolphins at home and Dan Marino was quarterback. Somebody told me that when Dan Marino made his first start that I was seven, so that put things in perspective for me. Certainly you get excited, your adrenaline's pumping but you have to remember someone in there that you still have to go out and play football. I made some good plays and I probably made a few rookie mistakes. We had a chance to win the game and we didn't. The thing for me was that my entire rookie year we weren't a very good team, but I truly learned something every single week. Whether it was in a third or fourth quarter where we were getting beaten badly and had no chance, I still took every snap. I will always be indebted to coach Mora for keeping me in there. He never pulled me out of the game and he always kept me in there. He stayed with me and I just learned a lot. I really used that to my advantage the following season. There is no way a team would have had the success my second year going 13-3 if I wouldn't have played as a rookie and gotten that experience. Q: What do you remember about your first game in San Francisco and do you view that game as a turning point into my career? Manning: Somewhat, because I was coming out there to play that great 49er team with all of those Hall of Famers and superstars. I came out there and had one of my best games as a rookie. It gave me a lot of confidence and we should have won the game. I can still remember that we went for it on third-and-1, but we blocked the wrong guy and had to kick a field goal. Once we missed that I pretty much knew it was over. You hate to lose because it gives you that sick feeling, but you evaluate and watch the film. That gives you a lot of confidence going into the season. The better team won the game. Q: Did you pick anything up from Steve Young watching him operate in the final minutes of the game? Manning: I've always been a big fan of quarterbacks. It was certainly a privilege to be a field with him that same day. He ran for over 100 yards and that's something that's pretty rare to see. He was operating on all cylinders for the most part. I probably found myself watching him a few times from the sideline. Q: What do you think about the possibility of you and Marvin Harrison breaking Steve Young's and Jerry Rice's record on Sunday? Manning: It's not something that's on my mind or Marvin's. Our focus is to come out there and do what we have to do to win the game. Any records or individual accomplishments are things that we will enjoy or appreciate when we retire, which is hopefully not any time soon. I have an appreciation for what Young and Rice did as a tandem. They threw a lot of touchdowns, but those touchdowns were helping the team win football games. That's what Marvin and I are about. He and I have definitely done some things together, but it's all come along with helping our teams win games. If we throw touchdowns that's just because we need those points to help our team win the game. That's the focus this week against this 49er team. Q: Do you get excited when you know you're going against a defense that hasn't been able to stop anyone in the air? Manning: Every game is unique. I think their defense is impressive watching them on film. They're around the ball and they've created a lot of turnovers. They've had double-digit leads in three of the four games, so you have to look at each game individually to see what happened. I watch the Arizona game on television and not too often do you see a team up 14-nothing on defensive touchdowns in the first quarter. They have guys that get around the football, they're second in the league in sacks, so it's going to be a good challenge for us. Q: What are your impressions of Alex when you spoke with him? Manning: Like I said, I don't know him terribly well. I can only speak for how I was. Whenever I had a chance to talk to other quarterbacks I wanted to pick their brains. I remember being around Marino a couple of times. I remember being around Elway a couple of times. Anytime I have the chance to be around other quarterbacks I try to pick their brain. I'll ask them a question about how to handle certain situations. Alex seemed to me that he had some questions for me and he was trying to learn and get better. That kind of stood out and that's an impressive quality. Q: When you started as a rookie, how much of the offense was you prepared to run compared to now? Manning: It grows every single year. Me and offensive coordinator Tom Moore have been together my entire eight years. We weren't a super football team my first year, but we grew doing the season and added players. Obviously it's changed, because sometimes we go no-huddle, do audibles and sometimes I call my own plays a fair amount. I think that's the nice thing, because he and I have been together. People say you're lucky, because you've had the same coordinator the entire time, but I think the two go hand in hand. If you're playing pretty good at quarterback your coordinator is probably going to stay. If the coordinator is calling good plays your quarterback has a chance to do well. I don't think it's luck. I think it's the fact that he and I have worked hard and tried to get better every single year. Q: How is your relationship with Marvin Harrison? Manning: Marvin was going into his third year when I arrived. He was a guy that I leaned on in my rookie year. As a rookie you look for some older guys to lean on and I kind of leaned on Marshall Faulk. Marshall left after my first year, so Marvin was a guy that I leaned on early. I developed a rapport with him. The accomplishments we've achieved hasn't come by accident. We spend a lot of time in the offseason working on our timing. We talk a lot in between practices about routes and he can visualize things. We put the time into it and it's played off on the field for us. Q: Do you guys still work on your timing in the offseason? Manning: Absolutely. You can't do it for one year and expect it to happen every single year. We put the time in and we do the same routes that we've been doing since 1998. I think that's the key. You have to try to hone your skills the older you get to make sure you're staying sharp. I've always taken a lot of pride in trying to have a good work ethic. Marvin has that same work ethic. Q: Have you guys had any rough patches? Manning: Yes, I think like anything. Everything is not always 100 percent smooth. I guess the best thing about Marvin and I is that it's nobody else's business. We've had disagreements, but we've aired them out. We do it in the huddle amongst ourselves. We don't call a press conference and tell the rest of the world about it. I think that's the way you're supposed to do things like that. It's been healthy for the most part. Sometimes he'll let some things out to me and I'll let some things out to him. There's no carry-over. Sometimes on the sideline we'll have a disagreement, then I'll come in and throw a touchdown to him and the next series it's over. It's an honor and a privilege to call him a teammate. Hopefully I will always be able to call him a teammate. Q: Are you surprised other teams haven't emulated your offense? Manning: I think you have to have 100 percent trust in your coordinator and your quarterback. Some teams allow the quarterback to audible, but the coach tells him right before he leaves the sideline that, ‘You can audible, but it better work.' That's not trust, that's more of a threat. Tom Moore trusts me and I've worked hard to earn that trust. He gives me freedom. If I want to change a play or call my own play, he says do it and don't think twice about it. It's a lot of responsibility on the quarterback in this offense. I think the key is having the right personnel to make it happen. Q: Would you like to see quarterbacks have a little more say in running their offense? Manning: It's a more fun way to play quarterback. It's fun to have some input into the game plan. You can't just show up on Sunday and expect to do it. You have to put the time in with film study and late-night study sessions on Tuesday, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday nights before the game. It puts more pressure on you to make calls and get you in the right calls and protections. Suddenly, when it goes your way it's a very rewarding feeling.
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