Peyton Manning earns respect

"Although he has the talent, you see each and every week the way he approached the game to give us the greatest advantage," Saturday said. "I was trying to learn, and I respected that. I respected he held guys accountable. He made me want to play harder and be the type of leader that would help us."

"I'm not trying to discredit what happened before in Denver with John Elway and that crew," Saturday added. "They had great teams and great success. But look at how Peyton has changed their culture. He's converted those guys to immediate playoff contenders and Super Bowl contenders. He does it the right way. I think that's why players voted for him. There are very few guys that played the game the way he does and have been as successful as he has and have stayed as grounded as he does."

So there is that.

There are also the ridiculous numbers. The 16 seasons with 240 career starts. The 5,532 completions and 8,452 attempts and 64,964 passing yards and 491 touchdowns. There are the 167 career wins and the 97.2 career passer rating.

There was this season in Denver, when Manning broke Brees' record for passing yards in a season. And there were those four neck surgeries and the months of doubt and wonder that followed, about whether Manning's storied career would continue past 2011.

Manning was so vulnerable and so uncertain and yet learned to throw again and fought through it to evolve into a different yet still effective quarterback. That's part of it, too.

The Manning of 2013 wasn't the Manning of the previous decade. He wasn't the Manning who struck fear in Bill Belichick or could throw the laser strike downfield to a sprinting Marvin Harrison or the player who won Super Bowl XLI.

But he was still good. He was still effective. And through it all, he remained the most respected player in the game.

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