CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Manning deserves appreciation not legion of haters

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Not everyone appreciates Peyton Manning's passion for the game. (US Presswire)  
Not everyone appreciates Peyton Manning's passion for the game. (US Presswire)  

Can somebody explain something to me: Why are some NFL players, media members, fans and others seemingly gleeful at the idea that Peyton Manning might not play in the season opener and could be impacted by a neck injury for even longer?

Isn't that crossing the line?

Like him or not -- and believe me, there are tons of people who don't -- why would someone get satisfaction from seeing a player, any player, get hurt?

The dislike for Manning is sickening at times. How many is-this-the-beginning-of-the-end columns can we see this summer?

Here are the facts. Manning has never missed an NFL game. Manning has played through a lot of pain, including a broken jaw. Manning is a tough guy who never gets credit for being tough. This neck situation is serious. And I still say he shows up on opening day.

When former Colts coach Tony Dungy said Manning would have to be dead not to play, he wasn't exaggerating. Remember, he broke his jaw once and missed one play.

Manning never gets credit for being a tough guy. It eats at him too. I know that.

Manning also does his job the right way. He works at it. He loves it. He's great at it.

Yet you get the idea there is a big faction of fans, players and media members who hope like heck he isn't playing Week 1 -- or beyond.

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True story: I once had an NFL player tell me he hates Peyton Manning.

Why?

"I don't know," he said. "I just do."

He is not alone. Others have echoed the same thoughts to me, without really knowing the guy.

Maybe it's the TV commercials. Maybe it's the theatrics at the line. Who knows the reasons?

There are stories of Manning being at the Pro Bowl and other players seeking him out to take pictures with him -- more so than any other player there. Even players who seemingly didn't like him before meeting him there have been drawn to him, according to those who have been there.

Yet there is this undercurrent of disdain when his name is mentioned. I would make this bet too: Manning is more disliked than Michael Vick or Ben Roethlisberger, two quarterbacks who have been a bit of hot water outside the NFL game.

That makes no sense.

Has Manning been in trouble with the law? Has Manning treated people with disrespect?

There are a lot of NFL players who go about their jobs with class and do things the right way. Manning is one of them, but for some reason he's seen as a guy people love to hate. Maybe it's the success.

Some of you will say this is just typical Prisco, taking up for Manning. Here's the backstory: I have a good, professional working relationship with Manning, nothing more. I appreciate him for what he is, and the way he plays the game.

Do I know about his personal life? No. Do I talk to him about getting together for beers? No.

I talk to him about football. And he is one of the best when it comes to that. It's because his passion is second to none.

That should make people warm to him. Instead it seems to make them cool to him.

Here we are a little more than a week away from the opener and you get the sense there is joy because Manning might not play against the Texans.

It's coming from players. It's coming from fans. And it's coming from the media.

Explain something to me: Don't you people appreciate greatness?

There are many players, stars included, over the years of covering the NFL, who have been rude, bitter, angry and downright hostile at times, but I would never wish injury on any of them.

A certain round defensive tackle known for browbeating reporters and now working on the league's network was always rude to reporters -- me included -- and there were other stories about his off-the-field demeanor as it relates to the public. We can deal with it. Does it mean Warren Sapp shouldn't be a first-ballot Hall of Fame pick? He's a slam-dunk in my book.

For all of his sitting at his locker after games, a spittoon at his feet to catch his tobacco spit as he challenged most reporters' questions with bully-like answers, I would never have wished ill will on him as it relates to injury.

I always wanted to watch the best.

Manning is arguably the best.

Why the heck then is there such joy because he might miss some games, yet great joy as Roethlisberger comes off suspension or Vick gets a new mega-contract as the great reformation project? There's something wrong with that.

No, there is something sick about that.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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