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Eli bolts from idea of playing for Bolts

Posted: Friday, April 23, 2004

NEW YORK Eli Manning is trying to pull a John Elway on the San Diego Chargers.

The Mississippi quarterback has let the Chargers know he doesn't want them to choose him with the first pick Saturday in the NFL draft.

He spent Thursday at an NFL luncheon with his famous relatives, father Archie and older brother Peyton, skirting around questions about the Chargers and what he would do if they draft him, anyway.

''I plan to be playing football next season,'' Eli said. ''I've talked to New York. I've talked to Oakland. I've talked to a lot of teams, and I like a lot of teams.''

Manning's maneuver is similar to the one Elway pulled in 1983, when he made it known that he didn't want to play for the Baltimore Colts, who owned the No. 1 pick. Still, the Colts took Elway. The Stanford quarterback responded by playing minor league baseball for the New Yankees and threatened to stick with that sport if the Colts remained stubborn.

Eventually, Baltimore traded Elway to Denver, where he went on to become a Hall of Famer.

''This is a bold move on the part of our family,'' Archie said. ''But I am not bold enough to try to manipulate this draft. I would not do that.''

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said he would do what's best for the franchise.

Archie said the decision to tell the Chargers to pass on Eli was made by his youngest son and agent Tom Condon with input from the family and others.

Archie Manning wouldn't give specific reasons why San Diego was asked to back off.

''I don't want the Chargers to be exposed in a negative way,'' he said.

The Mannings were surprised and disappointed that Smith went public Wednesday with Eli's request.

''This was not the way we planned things. We didn't want this to happen,'' Eli said.

Last week, the Chargers asked Condon to open negotiations with Eli in anticipation of possibly drafting him. Since then, Archie said he has spoken to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and has met with Chargers president Dean Spanos and coach Marty Schottenheimer.

''This is nothing personal against anyone,'' Archie said.

He was an outstanding player stuck on a dismal team, the New Orleans Saints, for most of his career. Peyton was taken by the Indianapolis Colts with the first overall pick in 1998. At the time, the Colts also were a struggling franchise.

''There's no rose garden out there for a quarterback starting in this league,'' said Archie, acknowledging that Eli probably will end up with a struggling team no matter who drafts him.

Condon has not returned phone calls from The Associated Press.

The New York Giants, who have the fourth pick, are one of three teams who talked to the Chargers about trading for the No. 1 selection. In recent days, there was speculation Condon was trying to swing a trade between the Giants and Chargers.

Archie said he has not expressed a desire to have Eli play for the Giants, despite what Smith said he was told by Condon.

The Chargers have missed the playoffs for the last eight seasons and are 43-85 since making their last postseason appearance in 1995. Since then, finding a quarterback has been a constant struggle.

The Chargers drafted Ryan Leaf No. 2 overall in 1998 after Peyton. Leaf turned out to be a bust.

In 2001, San Diego could have picked Michael Vick No. 1, but traded down and went with running back LaDanian Tomlinson in the first round and quarterback Drew Brees in the second.

But Brees hasn't been the solution, making Manning a possible fit for the Chargers.

Or so they thought.



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