FOXBORO -- He had to know it was coming.
When Eli Manning was scheduled for a conference call with New England media, he must have expected a question about this summer's quarterback comments. You remember -- the Brady stuff.
"The question was if I thought I was an elite quarterback and basically I was just saying that I did," Manning said Wednesday. "I'm usually not in to the business of ranking and rating quarterbacks, or comparing myself to the other guys, but I just . . . Looking back, I thought I gave an honest answer and I don't regret anything."
Why should he? In Manning's August interview on the Michael Kay Show, he was effusively complimentary of Brady. The point was, New England's quarterback has only gotten better since he won three Super Bowls and Manning thinks he has the same potential. Hardly scandalous.
But Manning grouping himself with elite QB's inspired a frenzy of indignation. Yes, he beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Yes, that performance earned him MVP honors. Yes, his current 102.1 passer rating is the best of his career. But, Brady? Many football writers and fans scoffed at the idea.
Manning didn't listen.
"I just didn't worry about it," he said. "It caught a lot of attention. After doing the interview, you kind of think back to see if you said anything that might cause attention. I didn't think that would be a big deal. I think there were circumstances where not a whole lot was going on in sports at the time, just some training camps and no games yet. So I think sometimes it's just depending on the timing of things that they have to have something to talk about in the sports world."
And a smart strategy. Want to make a statement? Do it on the field. Manning ignored those trying to put a ceiling on his ambition and look at him now: The NFL's No. 3 passer rating, a career-best 64.7-percent completion rate, and better control on interceptions (just five so far). He's not better than Brady, but he's not trying to crowd in on the same pedestal. Manning wants his own pedestal on the same level.
It's only natural.
"I think, as any player in the league, you always feel confident in your ability. Whether you just played a great game or you just played a poor game, you feel the next week you're going to go out and play great and make every throw and win games -- put your team in situations to win games. So I think that's the attitude that most athletes have."
Figuratively, he can put his money where his mouth is Sunday at Gillette. Brady versus Manning. Shootout starts at 4:15.