JERSEY CITY Peyton Manning was relaxed and reflective Wednesday, cherishing the support of brothers Cooper and Eli and the opportunity to play in a third Super Bowl in this, the second act of his historic career.
Sixteen months removed from spinal fusion surgery, the Denver Broncos quarterback shared How he plays for his older brother, Cooper, whose promising football career was ended by spinal stenosis his freshman year at the University of Mississippi.
Manning also was appreciative of Tuesday night's dinner with younger brother Eli and his wife, Abby, that afforded him the chance to meet their second daughter, 6-month-old Lucy.
Manning noted the chance to talk football with his two-time Super Bowl-winning New York Giants confidante in the run-up to Sunday's Super Bowl XLVIII showdown against the Seattle Seahawks.
"In a week like this, I do get reflective at times," Manning said. "I had a chance to be with Eli last night. Cooper came to both playoff games. He wouldn't miss those for the world. He gets in town tomorrow. And I'm sure New York will know it.
"I do think about Cooper. He's been to all these Super Bowls that I and Eli have played in. Nobody pulls harder for me or Eli than Cooper."
The 37-year-old quarterback is proud to carry on the football dreams of his older brother, a trader with a prominent New Orleans energy firm who was Peyton's go-to receiver at Isidore Newman School and earned himself a scholarship to Ole Miss before his playing career was ended by the narrowing of his spinal column.
The injury that changed Cooper Manning's life trajectory was an emotional chapter recounted in ESPN's recent The Book of Manning documentary.
"Many people got to see a little bit of his story on that documentary about my dad on what he went through with that neck injury," Peyton Manning said. "It wasn't his decision that caused him to stop playing football. To grow up in a football family where your dad is an NFL quarterback, it's not an easy card to deal with. And he handled it with an unbelievable attitude."
Manning added: "I've always felt I was playing football for Cooper and kind of let him play some of his football through me. Ever since he was injured a long time ago, I've always kind of carried that with me."
So much so that Manning chose jersey No. 18 to honor Cooper's high school number.
Before heading to Wednesday's outdoor padded practice at the New York Jets' training complex in Florham Park, N.J., Manning noted how special it was to catch up with Eli.
"We have a close relationship," Manning said. "We don't see each other much because of our similar schedules three or four times a year maybe.
"I got to meet my niece, Lucy, who was born right before training camp. And I had some good uncle time with her.
"Eli and I talked a lot of football when we talk during the season. Who we're playing, who they're playing. ... I enjoy talking to current quarterbacks in general and to have one you're related to, it's pretty neat."
And now Peyton has a chance to follow in Eli's footsteps considering how his younger brother won his second Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium, "The House that Peyton Built" given Peyton's impact on Indianapolis, where the building now stands.
"That is a pretty unique and ironic situation that Eli played in a Super Bowl in Indianapolis, and that the Broncos have a chance to play in the one in New York," Manning said.
"At 37 years old, and in my 16th season, especially in a week like this, I think it's healthy to take some time to reflect and smell the roses."
(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)