TIME FOR MAN­NING TO APOL­O­GIZE IS NOW

Re­tir­ing QB can start pol­ish­ing stained name

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - Nancy Armour nar­mour@ us­ato­day. com USA TO­DAY Sports

By re­tir­ing af­ter win­ning his se­cond Su­per Bowl ti­tle, Pey­ton Man­ning en­sured that his legacy on the field would re­main im­pec­ca­bly in­tact.

He can use his re­tire­ment news con­fer­ence Mon­day to help pre­serve the rep­u­ta­tion he so care­fully crafted off the field, too.

Man­ning has been con­spic­u­ously silent since al­le­ga­tions resur­faced about an icky in­ci­dent 20 years ago with then- Ten­nessee trainer Jamie Naugh­right. That, cou­pled with rev­e­la­tions hu­man growth hor­mone was shipped to his house while he was try­ing to re­cover from a ca­reer- threat­en­ing neck in­jury, have left many to won­der what he was sell­ing with all those com­mer­cials for pizza, cars and in­sur­ance.

Was the five- time NFL MVP’s squeaky­clean, Dudley Do- Right per­sona the mak­ings of the con­sum­mate pitch­man? Or the cover for a con man? Only Man­ning knows for sure. It’s un­likely it will ever be clear what hap­pened in that train­ing room in 1996. Naugh­right main­tains she was the vic­tim of sex­ual as­sault, ac­cus­ing Man­ning of

press­ing his gen­i­tals and but­tocks against her face while she was ex­am­in­ing his an­kle.

Man­ning said then and again in a 2002 de­po­si­tion that he was merely moon­ing an­other Ten­nessee ath­lete and never made con­tact with Naugh­right. In fact, he didn’t re­al­ize she’d seen him ex­pose his back side.

Both have wit­nesses to sup­port their sto­ries.

But if Man­ning wants his next ca­reer to be any­where near as lu­cra­tive as the one com­ing to an end, he’s go­ing to have to ad­dress the al­le­ga­tions.

Apol­o­giz­ing for the ac­tions of an im­ma­ture 19- year- old dur­ing his news con­fer­ence would be a good place to start.

An apol­ogy is not an ad­mis­sion of any­thing.

Even if what tran­spired was as in­no­cent as Man­ning claims, though, it was crass and ju­ve­nile, and it’s a good bet he cringes when he thinks about it now.

We all do things when we’re young and think we know it all that we come to re­gret with the per­spec­tive of age and ex­pe­ri­ence, and that’s all Man­ning has to say.

He has to say some­thing, how­ever. Oth­er­wise, he risks leav­ing not only those nearly 72,000 yards pass­ing, 539 touch­down passes and two Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onships, but a hand­ful of ques­tion marks, too.

MARK J. REBILAS, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Quar­ter­back Pey­ton Man­ning is ex­pected to an­nounce the end of his record- set­ting NFL ca­reerMon­day.

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