Being the oldest player on the New York Giants, Eli Manning can smile talking about the generational gap between him and some of his younger teammates.
Many of the so-called kids on the team were in grade school when Manning was taken with the first pick of the 2004 draft.
Some such as halfback and recent No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley were still in grade school when the quarterback won his first of two Super Bowl MVPs in February 2008.
And things certainly are different now. The music has morphed. The games played on the cell phones and tablets are more advanced. Phrases used in speech have changed. Dancing on the field and in the locker room is more prevalent.
“There’s a lot of dancing going on, a lot of dancing, which, I find very curious,” Manning, 37, said Tuesday after the Giants practiced for their annual preseason game against the Jets. “The music, I miss out on some of the music and social media, some of the things they’re on. For the most part, I can figure it out.”
Building relationships and putting the team first is what Manning has been all about entering his 15th NFL season.
While he is certainly more laid back than most of his teammates, Manning likes to reach out to the young men. He is notorious for taking their phones and changing the language to a foreign one.
Some players have caught on, though. Odell Beckham Jr. no longer uses 13-13 as his passcode to the cell phone, and other have chosen more intricate passwords. Manning is looking to get around that.
“You’ve got to have fun with them and connect with them,” Manning said. “There’s times where it is serious and you’re talking ball, they always know by the way I approach them whether I have something serious to talk about, a route or a concept or something. There’s (also) times where we get to goof off and kind of get to know the lighter side of them.”
Manning jokes that he is doing a lot more dancing to connect with a younger crowd that includes Beckham, Barkley, wide receiver Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram, all 25 and under.
“I think I have a good relationship with all the guys, and I’m not trying to act like I’m 22, I act my age and make fun of myself a lot, and they add to it probably and so that’s fine,” Manning said. “I’m good with that.”
Manning’s focus remains football. In recent days, he and Beckham have walked away from 11-on-11 drills between second teamers to work on pass routes and things they did not connect on in practice.
Beckham, who missed most of last season with a broken ankle, has not lost a step, Manning said.
“We’ve had game experience together,” Manning said. “Now Saquon, that’s different, just because he’s a rookie and missing some valuable time. So, I know he’s getting mental reps. It’s different than practice reps, it’s different than game reps. Hopefully, he can get back soon.”
Barkley has missed more than a week with a hamstring injury and it looks unlikely he will play Friday.
For Manning, the rivalry game with the Jets is nothing more than probably his last game before the season opener against Jacksonville on Sept. 9 at home.
“I look at it as the third preseason game and a chance for us to go out there and play for an extended period, against a good defense and a good team,” Manning said. “You want to go out there and execute well and feel good about where you are.”
Manning played two series in the preseason opener against Cleveland and led the team to a field goal. Shurmur rested him last Friday for the game in Detroit against the Lions.
“He kind of told me early on I probably wouldn’t play,” Manning said. “So, I knew I had to get the most out of the practices with Detroit, which I thought we got some good work. I always want to be out there and play, but I understand it. I look forward to this week getting out there.