Eli's coming

New York quarterback Eli Manning talks Giants and 49ers, touching on several topics surrounding the two teams while also handing out some advice to San Francisco rookie quarterback Alex Smith.

Q: How does this year's 5-2 start feel as opposed to last years 5-2 start?

Manning:
I think we feel better this year. I think everybody's on the same page and things are going well. Obviously, we're still improving on some things, but we just have to keep the intensity up, keep trying to get better every week and hopefully stay focused on what our goal is.

Q: How much has the game slowed down for you?

Manning:
I feel more comfortable out there making decisions, but I still have a lot of improving to do on things to get better every week. I'm still young and still making mistakes. I just continue to learn from every situation that happens, but I feel more comfortable in running the offense and managing the game.

Q: Have you developed a rapport with any of your receivers like that of your brother (Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning) and (Indianapolis WR) Marvin Harrison?

Manning:
We're trying, and obviously I've only been here two years, so I'm trying to get comfortable with (WR) Amani (Toomer), (TE Jeremy) Shockey and (WR) Plaxico (Burress), who's in his first year. We're not at the level that Peyton and Marvin have reached, but we're trying to work and communicate during the week and try to be on the same page with everything.

Q: How big was the offseason addition of Plaxico Burress?

Manning:
I think it's definitely helped us. He's made some big plays for us, but it's not all about one particular guy. I think everybody now is playing at a higher level than we were last year. Jeremy is having a good season. (RB) Tiki (Barber) is running the ball well, like he did last year. Amani is making some big catches for us also. The offensive line is doing their job. It's a matter of all the guys stepping up and playing better.

Q: Was there a point last year where it was tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel?

Manning:
In my rookie season, there was a time when I was frustrated. I was struggling and things were tough, but I was just trying to keep my head up and stay positive. I continued to work, knowing that eventually it would be a little easier. It's still a tough game. You're still going to go out there and have days when things don't go your way. You have to just stay positive and keep trying to make plays and play smart football.

Q: Will you chat with your brother to scout a defense he saw a few weeks ago?

Manning:
I've watched their game. We'll talk a little bit, but we run two different types of offenses and do different things. We're more of an ‘I' team and have a fullback, and they don't usually have that, so there are two different philosophies. We'll talk a little bit, and see if there's anything that might be able to help, but we haven't talked yet.

Q: Generally, how much do you two talk during the week?

Manning:
I might talk to him after a game, and maybe one other time, like Friday or Saturday before a game. Some of it's talking football, but some of it's just talking about what's going on in each other's lives.

Q: Have you allowed yourself to dream about a Super Bowl matchup against your brother?

Manning:
That's been the last thing on my mind. I'm trying to concentrate on the next game, and at this point we still have a lot of games left and a lot of good teams to play. That's the last thing on my mind.

Q: What do you think about quarterback Jesse Palmer, your former teammate and backup, joining the 49ers this week?

Manning:
It's funny how things work out sometimes, but I'm happy for Jesse. He was a good friend of mine and a good player, so I'm glad he finally got picked up. I think he'll do well for them.

Q: What can the 49ers expect from Palmer?

Manning:
He works hard. He's going to stay in there and study and understand the offense. He'll be able to manage a game well. It's a tough task coming into a new offense and have one week to try and prepare as if you never know what's going to happen. I think he'll put the work in and be prepared.

Q: How much ribbing did he get for being ‘The Bachelor?'

Manning:
Not a whole lot. Jesse's a big guy and he took everything well. It was amazing – it was my first year here – how many people were watching it and would come in asking, ‘Who'd you pick? Who'd you pick?' All the players were watching it and wanted to know who was the final one, but he did a good job of holding off. He wouldn't tell anybody, so it was a fun thing and he deals with it well.

Q: What would you attribute your improvement to?

Manning:
I'm still not playing at the level I need to be playing at. Some of it's just getting used to it, having confidence in your offense, knowing where all year receivers are going to be, but a lot of it is a credit to our players. We're playing better. Our offensive line is playing better in their run and pass protection. They're communicating. We're on the same page. The receivers have a better feel for the offense and are getting open. A lot of it is our guys are playing at a faster and higher level. The other thing is just studying and preparing. Last year, even when I wasn't playing, I just tried to learn as much as I could about defenses and what's going on. Eventually it will just become second nature and you'll be able to understand things quicker and process things faster when you play.

Q: How important was it to have your six starts to look back on in your maturation?

Manning:
I definitely think it was a big help playing last season. I had some tough games where I struggled, but I think all of that prepared you for the offseason and how you have to know this offense, how well you have to be able to go through your progressions and get on the same page with your receivers and just work things over and over again. Just having those games to watch on film. Understand how fast you have to be able to make reads and make decisions, I think all those things help you prepare in going through the offseason and during training camp. You realize what you need to work on to see how you'll be able to play better for this season.

Q: When you look at the 49ers defense, does anyone jump out at you?

Manning:
They have a bunch of good players. We're just now getting into it, and I have a lot more film to watch. They do a great job getting pressure on the quarterback with a three-down front. Their linebackers are very athletic. The outside linebackers are blitzing and getting to the quarterback well. We have a big challenge in front of us. They do a lot of good things defensively and mix things up, so we're going to have to be well prepared and go in there and play smart football and we can't make mistakes.

Q: What kind of comparisons do you seen between defensive ends Michael Strahan and Bryant Young?

Manning:
Those two guys are tremendous athletes and have tremendous work ethics. They are very smart football players and they understand the game well. They know what it takes in the offseason and during training camp to get to that level of play. Bryant Young is having a great season. I believe he's got eight sacks. He's a tough player, so he's going to be a challenge this week in the game.

Q: How have you managed to cope with the pressure of being the number one pick in the media capital of the U.S.?

Manning:
I really just try not to worry about that. My goal is to play good football and try to get Giants wins. That's what my focus is on. The media is going to be there, so you just try to be patient and answer all their questions. It takes a little getting used to, but I think I've done a decent job. I haven't lashed out at them. I try to have my answers and stick with them. If they ask things different ways to get different answers, I just try to give them the same answers and stick with it.

Q: What advice would you give (QB) Alex Smith?

Manning:
I would just say to keep preparing and keep studying. There's a lot to learn when the game is faster. Just keep sticking with it and don't get down. The more you take in from game to game and every week learning about defenses, learning what plays you like versus different defenses in going through your reads, things will become easier. It's tough. It's tough for everybody, especially rookies, and it just takes some time to get used to.


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