Manning continues to improve, readies for Chargers

Eli Manning continues to improve. He feels it and so does his coach. In leading Big Blue to its first 2-0 start in five years, Manning has made considerable progress.

"I think just having a feel for the game and just managing the game," he said. "I'm not where I need to be at all from the standpoint of a quarterback and making throws and running this offense, but I'm getting better every week I feel and getting more comfortable every week."

"He's better each game he plays," Tom Coughlin said. "Coming back after missing the last two preseason games and having the three-week period in which he didn't practice, he practiced four times prior to the opener. He had the experience of the opening game and got back to a normal workweek a week ago. The opportunity to play in the second game enhanced it even more. He's progressing each week, and I expect that to occur throughout the year."

Manning admitted that he's probably better off playing for a stickler like Coughlin.

"I think it has been good for me," he said. "He put a lot of things on me last year and I've watched tons of film, I've had to draw up plays and defenses and turn it in. Last year it took some time but in the long run, I think it was a good thing to learn as much football as I could."

Manning is also fortunate to have older brother Peyton to consult on a weekly basis.

"It's great that you have a brother and a best friend and a guy who's also the NFL MVP on your side who you can just talk to," he said. "You can talk about certain things and he knows exactly what you're talking about and sometimes he doesn't have to give advice, it just gives you someone to listen to."

The week that was: Thanks heavens the ‘Eli Manning returns to San Diego' story will be put to rest tomorrow once and for all. That was all the talk last week, with even current Chargers QB Drew Brees weighing in on the topic.

When asked what he was thinking while all the draft hoopla was taking place, Brees responded:

"I'll tell you exactly what I was thinking. I was thinking I don't care who comes in here, whether it be Eli Manning or Philip Rivers or if they bring in a free agent. That I'm the starting quarterback and leader of this football team and that's all there is to it. And everyday I approached it as I'm competing against myself. I'm not competing against anybody else. So, I don't care who comes in. I respect whoever they bring in because I know they will bring in good players, but it doesn't matter to me because they aren't taking my job."

Brees, who put together a comeback season for the ages in 2004, was totally correct.

As for Manning, he handled himself in his usual politically correct Manning style, but still refused to explain exactly what it was about San Diego and the Chargers that was so unappealing to him.

"I had nothing against San Diego or the people of San Diego when I made this decision," he explained. "I had actually never been to San Diego before, prior to making the decision last year so everything I'd heard about it, it's beautiful, it's got great weather, it's a great place to live and I don't deny that. I've been there since, last year for the rookie symposium, and saw what it is like and it is beautiful. My decision was not based on where I'd be living, it was about being there and playing football there for possibly six or seven years with a contract and it just didn't seem like the right fit for me."

When pressed what specifically turned him off, all Manning said was: "It wasn't one thing specifically, it was just a place where it didn't seem like the right fit for me and a place where I thought I'd be comfortable playing for a long period of time."

Manning did have everyone laughing when asked about the toughest road environments he's ever experienced.

"We played at LSU stadium a few times and they get there early and they are rowdy and yelling things," Manning said. "A lot of stadiums in the SEC you go in and the opposite quarterback is going to get harassed and yelled at when you have these 90,000-plus stadiums. So, I have played in loud stadiums before, but I don't know if I have played in a place where a team had a reason to dislike me."

When asked what he would have changed about the whole unpleasant experience, Manning said that he wished his father, Archie, would have never been brought into it.

"I don't know if there's a whole lot I could've done differently," he said. "I wish my father didn't get involved and he wouldn't have gotten criticized for standing up for me and supporting me. That's all he was doing, he was just speaking on my behalf, but it wasn't his doing. It wasn't his advice, so I wish I wouldn't have put some of that stuff on him so he wouldn't have to sit there and answer questions that he didn't have to answer."

In conclusion (we promise), Manning said the Chargers should have no hard feelings since things worked out on their end as well.

"I don't think San Diego as a team is upset with what happened last year in the trade," he said. "They got Philip Rivers and then Drew Brees comes out and was comeback player of the year and leads them to the playoffs. So, I think as far as they are concerned they are pleased with everything that happened."

Helping hand: Eli Manning is among eight NFL quarterbacks that have aligned themselves with Reebok in an attempt to raise $1 million for charity. Manning is one of eight QBs on the Rbk Touchdown Squad, which also consists of his brother Peyton of the Colts, Philly's Donovan McNabb, Jacksonville's Byron Leftwich, St. Louis' Marc Bulger, Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck, Chad Pennington of the Jets and San Francisco rookie Alex Smith. Eli Manning and Smith are considered reserves, but their TDs count in the total.

If the squad reaches its ultimate goal of 207 TD passes for the season, $500,000 will be donated on behalf of Reebok to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and another $500,000 will be donated to each of the QB's individual charities. The goal is to break the all-time highest amount of touchdown passes thrown by six players in NFL history – 206.

The group tossed nine TDs on opening weekend and 13 more the following weekend. However, they need to improve their performance for the cash, as they were on pace through two weeks for ‘only' 176 TDs.

The scoreboard:
  • Donovan McNabb: 6
  • Matt Hasselbeck: 4
  • Eli Manning: 3
  • Marc Bulger: 3
  • Peyton Manning: 2
  • Byron Leftwich: 2
  • Chad Pennington: 2
  • Alex Smith: 0

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