Belichick's respect for Manning 'second to none'


Peyton Manning became one of Bill Belichick's greatest adversaries over the quarterback's 18 years with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos.

On the eve of Manning's expected announcement that he will retire from the NFL, the New England Patriots coach took some time to reflect on the end of an era in which the two gridiron masterminds accounted for more than a few memorable moments.

It is with great admiration that I congratulate Peyton Manning for his tremendous career in the National Football League," Belichick told ESPN on Sunday.

"Peyton raised the bar as a performer and as a competitor and with a personal class in which he carried himself off the field. My relationship with Peyton is special, it is unique and it is one that I value greatly.

"For 18 years, we battled fiercely but regardless of each game's outcome, I always walked off the field with the utmost appreciation for the highest level of competition in which those games were prepared for and played.

"Peyton's immense contributions to the game reflect how genuinely passionate he is about it. I can honestly say that I never 'enjoyed' our meetings, but the respect I have for Peyton Manning as a competitor was, and will likely remain, second to none."

Belichick had the advantage head-to-head against Manning; his teams were 12-8 in their meetings over the years.

But Manning got the last laugh, with the Broncos' 20-18 victory in the AFC Championship game last season.

It was after that game when the two shared an embrace and microphones picked up Manning saying, "Hey, listen, this might be my last rodeo, so it sure has been a pleasure," setting off a swirl of retirement rumours heading into Super Bowl 50.

Manning went on to win the second championship of his career.

Belichick, with four Super Bowl rings since Manning entered the NFL in 1998, will always be able to hold that over him.