Best Day Of Peyton Manning's Life? When Ray Lewis Retired
Remember this moment after the Miracle at Mile High? It was one of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning's worst and best moments of his career.
Manning had just suffered an agonizing defeat in the 2012 AFC divisional playoff game to the Baltimore Ravens, who scored a game-tying 70-yard touchdown with under a minute left in regulation and went on to win in double overtime.
But it was also the last game in which Manning would have to take hits from another future Hall of Famer in Ray Lewis. Lewis retired just a few weeks later after winning Super Bowl XLVII.
While at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas last week, Manning was asked what the hardest hit was of the thousands he took during his 18-year NFL career.
"Thanks for bringing that up. Nice memories. The guy that hit me the hardest, and unfortunately the most often: a great linebacker from the Baltimore Ravens named Ray Lewis," Manning said in the video below, inciting cheers from the crowd.
"He retired two years before I did. That's the greatest day of my life. Sent flowers to his press conference: 'Stay retired, don't come back.'"
For those of us who have never been hit by the charging train that is Lewis (thank goodness!), Manning described what it feels like and let us in on trash talk that usually accompanied those hits.
"He was so explosive and fast and such an instinctive player that every time he hit me, it's almost like he was kind of driving me into the ground, kind of like he was using me to help him get up," Manning explained. "[Lewis was] whispering in my ear, 'I'll be back in a couple of minutes, punk.' Very, very, very friendly player. I don't miss that at all."
Manning added that he still hasn't decided what his next career endeavor will be, but he did shoot down one rumor that had been floated around: running for the U.S. Senate.
"I have no idea where that comes from. A few weeks ago, I was going to go run a team [Indianapolis Colts], last week I was going to be in the Senate, next week, I'll probably be an astronaut," Manning said. "I have no interest in getting into the political world. I'm certainly interested in being a servant, serving communities, giving back to communities, and I'm pretty comfortable in that role."
Robert Kraft: Tom Brady Can Play Six Or Seven More Years
Now if only we could get another future Hall of Fame quarterback to retire.
Alas, it doesn't look like that will happen.
Despite turning 40 years old before the upcoming season, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady apparently plans on playing another six or seven more years. This, according to team Owner Robert Kraft.
"As recently as two, three days ago, he assured me he's willing to play six, seven more years," Kraft said Monday at the annual owners meetings in Arizona. "At the level he performed, there is no one who would be happier than I am and our fan base. When you think about it, there's one player at the age of 40 who had one good year: [Brett] Favre, for the Vikings."
That's not all.
Kraft added that he hopes Head Coach Bill Belichick, who is 64 years old, coaches into his eighties.
"You see Warren Buffet and Rupert Murdoch, they're in their mid-eighties and performing [at] a pretty high level, so we're going to keep Bill healthy," Kraft said.
Dick Cass: Probably No More Free-Agent Signings Until May
The Ravens uncharacteristically shot out of the free-agency gates, signing running back Danny Woodhead, defensive backs Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr and retaining defensive tackle Brandon Williams.
But expect the team to take a breather for the next month or so.
Team President Dick Cass told The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec the Ravens will likely wait until after the draft to resume signing veterans because the teams wants to retain the one to two compensatory picks they're currently set to earn in the 2018 NFL Draft.
"It's conceivable that we'll do something, but it's more likely to me that it will be something after the draft," Cass said. "We'd like to preserve the opportunity to win a compensatory draft pick. But you never say never. If an opportunity comes along, we might take it."
The Ravens will likely wait until May 9 to sign unrestricted free agents because that's when they won't count against the compensatory pick formula. In the meantime, however, they could still sign players cut from their previous teams.
According to Zrebiec, Baltimore has about $8 million in salary-cap space, which will be used on any future veteran signings, the upcoming scheduled seven draft selections and undrafted rookies.
"I feel good about where we are," Cass said. "I think we've made some good investments in our future. We have some cap room left, but we have to be careful with it. If we don't use it, we can roll it over until next year. I suspect we will use it, but I suspect it will be after the draft."
A Few More Notes From Cass …
Zrebiec published a full question and answer session with Cass, which you can read in its entirety here. Below are a few notes …
- The Ravens will not be featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks."
Baltimore was one of eight teams that was eligible for the show by virtue of not making the playoffs in two of the last three years and not being featured for the last 10 years. But they were eliminated from consideration because of the $45 million renovation project at the Under Armour Performance Center.
- Ravens fans in London are expected to be one of the largest contingents the NFL has seen from teams traveling to the U.K.
"We're expecting a lot of fans there," Cass said. "We've been getting a lot of phone calls. We were given a certain ticket allotment by the league and those tickets are all gone. Our sponsor, PrimeSport, has organized trips and they're sold out. We've been hearing from the league that the demand from Ravens' fans to come to London is among the highest that they've seen for any team."
- Baltimore voted in favor of the Raiders relocating from Oakland to Las Vegas.
"Whenever there is a re-location, it's incredibly painful for the fans. You have to really feel for the fans of the Raiders in Oakland, and how much this is going to impact them," Cass said. "On the other hand, I know the league worked extremely hard to find a viable solution in Oakland and it just couldn't get done. They were left with no viable solution, and a solution in Las Vegas that is workable. The stadium and finance committees unanimously approved the re-location and I think the league, and we, are excited about the prospects in Las Vegas."
ESPN: Ravens Most Improved AFC North Team After Free Agency
Three of ESPN's four AFC North writers voted the Ravens as the most-improved team in the division after free agency.
"Baltimore's defense should take major strides forward with Brandon Williams returning and the additions of Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr," wrote Browns reporter Pat McManamon. "The Ravens strengthened the secondary and kept one of their important players. A defensive collapse in the final five weeks of the 2016 season cost Baltimore a playoff spot. General Manager Ozzie Newsome has taken moves to ensure that does not repeat in 2017."
Jamison Hensley doesn't think the Ravens had much competition for the award because the Pittsburgh Steelers stayed patient (as always), the Cleveland Browns still don't have a proven quarterback and a major part of the Cincinnati Bengals' leadership has left.
Of all the signings that were made over the last few weeks, the writers said the addition of Jefferson will have the biggest impact on the division.
"The Ravens have used back-to-back free-agency periods to form one of the league's best safety tandems [with Jefferson and Eric Weddle]," wrote Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler. "When General Manager Ozzie Newsome gives a defensive back $14 million guaranteed, you know he can play. Jefferson should feel right at home in a toughness-first AFC North, and Baltimore has another sparring partner with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown every December."