By Bill Bradley, contributing editor
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning thought at one point his brother Peyton Manning would not return to the NFL after undergoing multiple neck surgeries three years ago.
"Yeah, and I saw him after that first surgery, this neck surgery, and I was pretty much convinced that he was done," Eli told NFL Network on Wednesday's "Super Bowl Live" show. "There was no way he could come back and play football.
"That first time he went and we were just throwing it in the backyard of our house. We're throwing 15 yards away, and it was a lob. He couldn't throw 15 yards on a line. It had no pop. I was like, I mean -- he wanted to come back and play football, and I didn't think it would happen."
Peyton is now poised to play in his third Super Bowl and his first with the Denver Broncos on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. He is coming off one of the greatest single-season performances by an NFL quarterback, throwing 55 touchdown passes and amassing 5,477 yards through the air.
Despite his success this season, Eli said he never thought Peyton would play again after watching him throw following his last surgery.
"I remember watching his preseason game last year and I was worried. I was kind of like, 'I don't know how this is going to work,' " Eli said. "If you gotta make a throw, or someone's in your face, and you can't step into the throw, can you make all those throws that you gotta make a lot of to end games."
Eli, who has led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl victories, has helped Peyton with some of the nuances of MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., where Sunday's Super Bowl will take place. He told NFL Network he is proud of his older brother.
"But sure enough, he's been able to do it, and even this year, he's been stronger, his arm strength's been stronger, and he's been better than ever," Eli said. "So it's been an amazing journey for him and what he's overcome and for me to watch him to go through it, and the dedication to work has been inspiring."