Peyton Manning acknowledged the end of his career may be near.
In the aftermath of the Broncos' victory over the Patriots in Sunday's AFC Championship Game, Manning divulged the information during his postgame hug with New England coach Bill Belichick in an exchange captured by NFL Films cameras.
"Hey, listen, this might be my last rodeo," Manning said. "So, it sure has been a pleasure."
Belichick replied: "You're a great competitor."
During his news conference after the Broncos' 20-18 win, Manning said, "There is no question this is a sweet day. … To me, this victory is a great example of what this entire season has been like. It hasn't been easy."
But the 39-year-old quarterback declined to revisit the past, including the foot injury that sidelined him for six games this season. Nor would he allow himself to think too far ahead to Super Bowl 50. "It's not really time to reflect," Manning said. "We'll enjoy this victory tonight."
True to form, the tight-lipped Belichick refused to discuss any details of his on-field conversation with Manning. "No, I don't have anything to share," he said Monday. "I shared it with Peyton."
Sunday's game marked the 17th time Manning squared off against Tom Brady and the 20th time he faced Belichick's Patriots.
"I've stated it in my entire career, I have great respect for Tom as a player, as a friend and for the job he's done for that franchise and for coach Belichick," Manning said. Then he joked, "I can't get away from either of those guys. Just like (Sunday), it's always been a tremendous challenge when you play against both of them together, especially."