Manning, Freeney rate as Any Era players

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
10:51
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Joe Namath and Dwight Freeney ESPN.com IllustrationWould Hall of Famer Joe Namath have a chance against Dwight Freeney's speed? MATCHUP GALLERY
ESPN’s NFL Any Era project is counting down 20 current players a panel of Pro Football Hall of Famers believe could have played at any point in NFL history.

The panel is an impressive collection of men.

The countdown is on, and so far we’ve seen two members of the AFC South make the list, with Tennessee running back Chris Johnson getting an honorable mention.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning came in 20th.
MIKE DITKA: "Because he's a quarterback, people don't look at him as a tough guy, but he is a tough guy. He could have played in any era. I'm surprised he's No. 20. I was probably a part of that because I didn't pick him high, but you take a guy like that for granted. Great football player. He's a combination of [Johnny] Unitas and Bart Starr to me. Peyton's a cerebral guy, and I look at Starr as smart as anyone who played that position. He had the ability to make the throw, and that's something that Peyton has always done."

Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney placed 17th.
FLOYD LITTLE: "Dwight Freeney is absolutely relentless. When he was hurt two years ago before the Super Bowl, he played hurt because his team needed him there. The fact that players want to play when they are hurt demonstrates that they could play in any era because in my day you had to literally hide a guy's uniform to keep them from playing. Because when it was time to play, we went out and played. I think he's the greatest defensive end of his era. He's not only fast but proficient; he wreaks havoc on the offensive line. When he gets off that ball, he is relentless to get toward the QB. I've never seen someone that focused."

It’s hard to argue against either.

Manning’s ability to manage his offense and get out of bad plays and into good ones qualifies as old school. Freeney’s relentlessness and ability to create moves to get to the quarterback would surely be effective against pass protectors of any period.

Follow the conversation about the countdown of Any Era players via Twitter, where we're hashtagging it all with #NFLAnyEra.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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