It took just one day, but Eli Manning walked back his shot at Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson.
Manning, the former New York Giants quarterback and two-time Super Bowl champion, made a joke at Wilson’s expense during Monday night’s ESPN ManningCast broadcast of the Cowboys’ 23-16 victory against the Giants.
By Tuesday, in an interview with Front Office Sports, Manning, also a two-time Super Bowl MVP, said his intention was not to disparage Wilson.
“No, I don’t think we’re trying to be critical,” Manning said in the interview. “I think we always try to support the guys that are in the game. I think sometimes, ‘Hey, it’s live TV.’ I never try to take a real shot at somebody. I think that was obviously a very outrageous joke — because a punter had 10 punts. Nothing against Russell. He’s going to do great.”
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During the broadcast Monday night, as it was headed into commercial with former NFL punter and media personality Pat McAfee looking on, Manning said of Denver: “They should’ve paid that punter $235 million instead of Russell.”
Manning was referring to Wilson’s five-year, $245 million contract extension from September and to Denver’s punter Corliss Waitman. During Sunday night’s 11-10 Broncos victory over the 49ers, Waitman became one of the ironic stars of the game because he punted the ball 10 times for 476 yards as Wilson and the Broncos’ offense struggled. Wilson is in his first year in Denver after spending a decade with the Seahawks.
“It’s hard going into a new offense, a new system,” Manning told FOS. “It takes some time. It’s not going to be perfect after three weeks. I’ve been in that situation. It can take five or six weeks before you get comfortable with the coaches. It’s not just the quarterback. It’s all the players coming together, learning a new offense and getting together and getting on the same page.
“So I know he’s going to turn it around. He’s a tremendous player-athlete. So never want to try to take a shot. Or put anybody down. Obviously, it was just a ridiculous idea of paying a punter that much. I think we try to support the quarterbacks that are in the game. We know how hard it is to be in that situation. Obviously, sometimes we get emotionally involved. You root for guys. So you react. Or you’re rooting for a team. If they’re not doing something you think they should be doing, the thoughts and the opinions come out a little bit.”
Wilson, 33, has completed 59.4% of his passes so far this season — which would mark a career low — for 743 yards with only two touchdown passes versus one interception.
Despite that, Wilson may have been the one to get the last laugh. When asked about Manning’s comments on Wednesday, Wilson referred to him as Chad Powers, the persona Manning played during a segment on ESPN in which he pretended to be trying out for a walk-on spot at Penn State.
“You talking about Chad Powers?” Wilson quipped. “Yeah, you know, Chad Powers. I’m 3-0 against Chad Powers.”
Indeed, Wilson has beaten teams that had Manning as a starter three times. While with Seattle, Wilson led the Seahawks to victories in the 2013, 2014 and 2017 seasons by a combined score of 85-24.
“Listen, it’s just part of the game,” Wilson continued. “Those guys have fun and everything else. I have a lot of respect for Peyton and Eli and those guys. I’ve always looked up to those guys, so I’m not stressed about it.”