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Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Eli expects rough San Diego crowd

By Kieran Darcy
ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning expects a harsh reception when the New York Giants take the field Sunday in San Diego.

It's been nearly 10 years since the draft-day trade that sent Manning from the Chargers to the Giants, in exchange for Philip Rivers and three draft picks, after Manning indicated he wouldn't play for the Chargers. But it's only the second time the Giants have played in San Diego since.

The first time, in 2005, Manning heard boos and chants every time he lined up under center. Fans held up disparaging signs, and even physically assaulted a mannequin dressed up as Manning in the first row behind the Chargers' bench.

"I'm sure they'll bring it up [again]," Manning said Wednesday. "I'm sure they'll do something to kind of get the fans fired up. We'll see what happens."

Despite the rude welcome he received eight years ago, Manning had nothing bad to say about San Diego on Wednesday.

"I have nothing against San Diego as a city," he said. "We had our rookie symposium there. But besides that, I have been to San Diego for a few other things. I know it's a beautiful city, and great weather, and has a lot of great things to it."

But he refused to delve into his reason for forcing a trade, even a decade later.

"Uh, I forgot," Manning said, tongue-in-cheek. "I can't remember. It's been 10 years. It slipped my mind."

The trade has worked out pretty well for both teams. Manning has guided the Giants to two Super Bowl victories, winning two Super Bowl MVP awards. The Chargers haven't won a championship, but they've been a contender for much of the past decade. Since Rivers took over as the team's starting quarterback in 2006, the Chargers have gone 75-49, have advanced to at least the divisional round of the playoffs four times, and have had only one losing season (7-9 in 2012).

"Philip Rivers has had an outstanding career in San Diego and Eli Manning has had an outstanding career here, so I think you have a win-win situation there," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.

Eli Manning
Eli Manning will return to San Diego on Sunday for the second time since spurning the Chargers in the 2004 draft.

When asked to recall the trade on Wednesday, Coughlin credited former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, although the coach also said the entire organization was on board.

"I remember Ernie Accorsi making that deal, of being 100 percent in belief that this was the right thing to do for our franchise," Coughlin said. "I remember that Ernie had studied Eli since he was a freshman in college and had really a strong, strong feeling about him. I remember the fact that he had the confidence and the constitution, if you will, to push the deal through."

When asked if he has any doubts Accorsi made the right call, Coughlin said, "None whatsoever. There are a couple things out in the hallway you might want to take a look at" -- referring to the pair of Vince Lombardi trophies that have been added to the Giants' trophy case in the past six years.

Manning said he's kept in touch with Rivers over the years, and is very proud to be in a draft class that includes Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Does Manning consider himself the best of the bunch, given his two Super Bowl MVPs?

"I don't know. … People will be able to debate that after we're done playing -- I'm sure they debate it now, but that's not for me to get into," Manning said. "I'm gonna try to do my best and win games for this organization and be the best player I can be, and that's all I can really concern myself with."

Both the Giants and Chargers are 5-7, in desperate need of a win to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive.

"Should be an exciting game, and obviously kind of a must-win for both teams," Manning said. "So just looking forward to going out there and seeing if we can get a win."