Eli Manning comfortable playing last year of Giants contract
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning believes current work rules that force him to work out with his receivers away from the New York Giants' training facilities are absurd.
Speaking Monday as the team started voluntary offseason workouts, Manning said the collective bargaining agreement makes it difficult for him to work out with teammates without violating league rules.
Earlier this month, Manning went to Duke with NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle for three days of throwing, going over the offense with the receivers and getting a jump start on organized team activities. The four went to the university because they knew they would have access to good field conditions, meeting rooms and a training staff.
''I think because of the rules it makes it hard to work with your guys, which I think is a little ridiculous at this level,'' Manning said. ''...but those are the rules that we decided on, so we have to abide by them. This is a way for us to work and still have all the facilities that we need.''
In a roughly nine-minute interview, Manning said he has no problem heading into the upcoming season playing the final year of his contract. His only concern is to get ready for a season in which Tom Coughlin's team will try to end a three-year playoff drought.
''I am comfortable,'' said Manning, who will earn $17 million this year under terms of a $97.5 million deal signed in 2010. ''I have a job to do and that is to play football, and that is my only concern, so I have never got too caught up with contract stuff. The way I look at it is that I have one more year and I am going to play that one more year and go from there.''
The 34-year-old Manning said he hopes to complete 70 percent of his passes, throw fewer than 10 interceptions and see the offense makes strides under second-year offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
Despite a 6-10 record, Manning made strides last season in the West Coast offense that was new to the Giants. He threw for 4,410 yards, 30 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, while completing 63 percent of his passes. The biggest improvement was reducing the interception total from a career-high 27 to 14.
''I would like to get that in single digits,'' Manning said. ''I think that is kind of a goal every year, that eight number. You would obviously like to have zero, but understanding football and funny things can happen, so one every two games.''
Manning's numbers have a chance to improve this season if Beckham can build off his phenomenal rookie season; Cruz can regain his form after missing most of the season with a second straight knee injury; and new running back Shane Vereen can give Manning a legitimate target out of the backfield.
Cruz might be the biggest question mark. He's not running full speed but Manning said he benefited from the Duke experience by being in meetings and hearing plays called.
Beckham has replaced him as the go-to guy for Manning. Despite missing the first four games with a hamstring injury, he caught 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns, setting team rookie records for catches and yardage.
''I think there is definitely room for improvement,'' Manning said of Beckham. ''There are still some missed throws. ... a lot of things we didn't get the reps on the timing, so some of the timing throws because we didn't have a whole lot of time to practice. We didn't have an offseason. We didn't have a training camp to practice those things.''
Manning said it was interesting seeing teammates on Monday.
''I recognize more faces this year than last year. Last year we had a lot of new players, on offense and defense,'' he said. ''I thought coming in last year my first priority was to learn my teammates, which was ahead of learning the offensive playbook. ''
Middle linebacker Jon Beason said the foot injury that limited him to four games last season is feeling good, and he is looking forward to playing under Steve Spgnuolo, back for a second stint as defensive coordinator.
''We have to completely reset,'' Beason said. ''Don't worry about where you played or how you played in college, just buy into a system and say whatever my coach asks me to do, that is what I am going to do. I think if we do that, we will be on the same page and we will get guys at one time doing one thing right as opposed to 11 guys doing something different at one time.''
Notes: Vereen, who helped the Patriots win the Super Bowl, will be joining his former teammates this week for a trip to the White House. ''It always has been something I have wanted to do,'' said Vereen, whose 11 catches in the Super Bowl were a record for a running back. ''I can check it off my bucket list. I am looking forward to meeting the president. ''
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