EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Don’t bother talking to Eli Manning about his age.
Entering his 14th season, the 36-year-old New York Giants quarterback just smiled Friday when asked about the number and comments by general manager Jerry Reese that the two-time Super Bowl MVP will be on somewhat of a pitch count in training camp.
The goal seemingly is to limit the wear and tear on the “old guy’s” arm heading into a season when the Giants have high hopes following their first playoff berth since winning the Lombardi Trophy in February 2012.
“I know how old I am,” Manning said after the Giants held their first training camp workout. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being 36. I’m proud of it. Hey, I feel good. I can still make all the throws. I can still run around when I need to. So, it is what it is. But I don’t see myself slowing down at all and I feel like I still got great football ahead of me.”
Giants co-owner John Mara agrees.
“He shows no signs to me of slowing down,” Mara said. “He is highly motivated to win another championship. To me, he looks as good as he ever had, so we are excited about him.”
The Giants’ offense did not have a good season in 2016 despite making the playoffs. The unit was ranked 25th overall, with the run game at No. 29 and the passing game at No. 17.
Manning hit 377 of 598 passes for 4,027 yards, 26 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. His quarterback rating of 86.0 percent was in the lower third of the league.
One of the major problems was the offensive line. There was no running game and Manning was knocked down more than the Giants wanted, getting sacked 21 times and punished by hits much more than that.
“Eli has to take care of himself and get himself ready to play mentally and physically,” Reese said Thursday. “When guys get up in age, you have to take care of them. There are a few guys on the squad that coach McAdoo and our staff, we’ve talked about, ‘OK, let’s make sure these guys get to the game, get to the season.’ You’ve got to protect them in some ways.”
Manning downplayed the so-called pitch count. He said he has been on one since Ben McAdoo took over as offensive coordinator in 2014 and then became the head coach last season.
It’s not so much a pitch count. Manning throws more on some days and less on others. On the days he throws less, he works more with the starters.
Manning is excited about the changes the team has made in the offseason. Former Jets wideout Brandon Marshall was signed as a free agent and New York drafted quick tight end Evan Engram in the first round.
The additions should make it tougher for opponents to double playmaking receiver Odell Beckham Jr., while creating mismatches for Manning to exploit if he gets the time to throw.
“I’m excited about the year, just knowing the guys and the character that we have on this team,” Manning said. “Guys have worked hard in the spring; we got better and added some elements, and so I’m excited about raising our level of play and being explosive on offense and scoring points and having a strong defense. So, the possibilities are there. We just got to get to work and we got to make it happen.”
NOTES: LB J.T. Thomas was placed on the physically unable to perform list. McAdoo hopes to have him back shortly. … DT Damon Harrison is a little sore and will be brought along slowly in training camp, McAdoo said. … The first practice last roughly 80 minutes, relatively short for early in training camp. … Former Jets QB Geno Smith (knee) has been cleared to practice. … Beckham is in great shape. “Looks like he can roll out of bed and run a 4.3,” McAdoo said.