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Peyton Manning: Always an honor to play Tom Brady

Peyton Manning-Tom Brady XVII looked like it might never happen.

When Brock Osweiler led the Denver Broncos to a overtime victory over the New England Patriots in Week 12, some considered it the end of the rivalry between the two greatest quarterbacks of this era.

The Sheriff might have been out, but he wasn't down. Peyton Manning said Wednesday that he took his return from injury one week at a time and was never considering that his career might end on the sideline.

"I really tried to take it one week at a time and stay in the moment," Manning said. "Try not to get too far ahead. Try not to assume any type of finality or any type of 'hey this is what's going to happen in three weeks or four weeks.' I truly followed the old cliché 'one week at a time' and tried to stay patient. And I think that served me well, because there is no question a lot has happened this season. It's been very different for me more than any other season than I've played in 18 years. So I'm staying patient, taking it slow, one week at a time, that has certainly helped me."

With the Manning vs. Brady rivalry renewed in another AFC Championship Game, the Broncos quarterback was effusive with praise for his quarterbacking opponent.

"I've always given the boring answer: It's the Colts versus the Patriots and now it's the Broncos versus the Patriots," Manning said when asked about facing Brady once again. "But all I can say about Tom Brady is that he plays the position the way it's supposed to be played...

"There are a lot of players that have played in 16 of those games. As the quarterback it's always a great honor and privilege to have competed against (Brady) over the course of the past 16, 17 years that he and I have been in the league together."

Manning reciprocated the Patriots' praise from earlier in the day, saying the on-field matchup will be a challenge against Brady and coach Bill Belichick, who have been to 10 AFC title games together.

Manning bushed aside a stretched metaphor that he and Brady are akin to the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson rivalry of the 1980s, saying it's an "uncomfortable comparison to make." But the Broncos signal caller was comfortable being vociferous about his respect for Brady.

"I felt very fortunate to have played 18 years like I have and I know how I've worked to play this long," Manning said. "So when I look across at the New England Patriots and see Tom Brady as their quarterback, I know how hard he's worked as well to play as well as he has over the course of his career with the success he's had -- and the team's success -- I have a lot of respect for him. He's earned the respect. He and Bill Belichick have earned all the respect and all the accolades that they get."

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