Exclusive Interview: Eli Manning on Pressure to Repeat, Peyton’s Return, and More

September 5, 2012

The 2012 NFL season is finally here. It kicks off with Eli Manning and the New York Giants beginning their title defense tonight against division rival the Dallas Cowboys. We caught up with the two-time Super Bowl MVP at his DIRECTV NFL SUNDAY TICKET Satellite Media Tour and asked him about the pressure to repeat, new goals he’s set for himself this season, his brother Peyton’s return in Denver, and much more. Before you read the interview below, watch the video clip above where Eli addresses the “smack talk” coming out of Dallas.

How do you feel going into the new season after such a great year in 2011-2012?

I’m excited about this year. I think we have a great team. Our players have worked extremely hard this offseason, with the attitude we got to get better. We have something to prove. We’re better than the 7-7 team we were last year at one point. We want to play like the team that finished the season 6-0. That’s been the mentality and guys have worked that way, so I’m looking forward to having another great opportunity to do something special this year.

Do you find a lot of added pressure to repeat as champions?

I think all you can do as a player is make sure you’re doing everything correctly to play at your best this year. Are you going through the right steps and the right processes to improve your own game? To improve for me as an offense, it’s about getting the young guys to step up. Each year you’re going to get some new players and you’re going to lose some players, so it’s about getting everybody on that same page. Are you doing everything possible to play at your highest level? That’s all you can worry about. Go out there and play the games each week and try to have a good season.

Last time you guys were defending champs you had a great follow-up season, but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs. Is there anything you can take from that experience going into this year?

I think you can take some positives out of it. We started the season 11-1. We won the NFC East that year. Those are all good things, but we didn’t finish the season strongly and obviously didn’t play very well in the playoffs. I think we have to take the positives and say we want to make sure we start fast and are playing our best football. We’re playing at a high level but have the mentality to finish the season stronger and make sure we’re playing our best football at the very end.

What personal goals are you setting for yourself this season? Is there anything you’re hoping to achieve?

Each year as a quarterback you kind of set goals on making good decisions and eliminating turnovers. My goal is to throw less than seven interceptions. That’s kind of the mentality. You like to throw none, but sometimes there’s a tipped ball or those odd ones that come up. (Laughs.) I try to make wise decisions and do things that don’t put our team in a bad situation. Besides that, I never worry about throwing this many touchdowns or this many yards. Those things happen naturally. I don’t care if we run the ball every down. If that’s working well and we don’t have to throw it one time in a game, I’ll take it if that means we’re going to win. I don’t think that will be the exact case. I’m just trying to find ways to win games for the Giants.

The Giants added a few weapons to your arsenal through the draft in Rueben Randle and David Wilson. How are they looking?

Both those guys are doing well. David has run the ball hard. He’s a guy who in some of the preseason games had some big plays and broke some long runs, so that’s good to see. Rueben’s another talented guy who has made some good plays in preseason. For the young guys, it’s just about getting reps and more live action. As the season goes on, they should get better each and every week. We’re looking forward to seeing if they can bring some big play-making ability to this offense.

Is there anyone you’ve been working closely with this offseason?

I think all the players have worked hard this offseason. Hakeem Nicks has been working hard. During OTAs and spring training, he had a little injury so he just got back into the mix a few weeks ago. Victor Cruz has had a great offseason. He’s worked extremely hard. Kind of that attitude that he knows he can improve. He can get better even from last year. He had a great season. There are areas of his game that he can work on and he’s had that mindset. Marcellus Bennett is a new tight end whose come in and is doing a lot of good things. He can really help us out in the offense. He’s very athletic and wants to learn. He wants to know everything so there are no mistakes once the season starts and we’re on the same page and making plays. Rueben Randle, Ramses Barden—we have a lot of weapons on offense. I’ve been trying to work with them all and make sure all of them have the ability to help us out this year.

Speaking of the receiving corps, who do you think is ready to step up and take the #3 spot?

Well, I think we have a good problem. We have a couple guys who have the ability to step into that spot. Whether it’s Dominic Hixon, who’s returning, and a smart guy that has been a starter for us over the past years. He has a chance. Ramses Barden is a guy who’s in his fourth year and had a good preseason. He’s worked hard. And then Rueben Randle is a guy who’s coming in with a lot of talent and a second-round pick. All three of those guys have the ability and I think all of them will get playing time. We’ll put them in certain spots where they do well—you try to put them in for those routes and those situations. Some guys do different things. You can line them up at different spots to help this offense, so it’s always a good problem to have a lot of receivers that are capable of making big plays.

Last question. How’s Peyton doing? Do you watch his games when you’re not playing?

We do talk during the season. Usually after games, on the bus, or at home. I like it when we play the one o’clock game and Peyton plays the four o’clock game so I can get home and watch his game on DIRECTV. Those are the fun times and then afterwards we can talk about it. Then usually on Friday night after a full week of preparation we talk. This year will be a little different. We’ve usually been on the same time zone, but now he’s in Denver in a different time zone, so we got to see what our timing will be and what’s the best time to get our talking in. I’ve been excited to see him back in uniform playing football again. I know it’s been a long stretch so just seeing highlights of his first preseason game, and seeing him make some throws and plays was exciting for me. I know how hard he’s worked to get back to this situation.

Come back soon to see more from our exclusive interview with Eli.

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