The possibility that the Broncos can send quarterback Peyton Manning out a winner in his final NFL game is one of the storylines heading into Super Bowl 50 and members of the Broncos said Monday that doing that was a motivation heading into Sunday.
Manning isn’t the only veteran eliciting that kind of reaction from his teammates, however.
Panthers defensive tackles Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei have helped the Panthers to division titles in all three of their NFL seasons, but older teammates like Thomas Davis and Charles Johnson have seen leaner times over the years with Carolina. On Monday night, Johnson said he thought going through a two-win season “makes you better, it makes you humble” and that he’s been doing his best to make sure that players like Short and Lotulelei understand the opportunity that’s in front of them.
Lotulelei said that the veterans have told him “that you never know when you’re going to be in this situation again” and that he wants to win for the older members of the team. Short echoed that sentiment.
“It makes me appreciate the process more,” Short said. “I talk to Charles about it a lot and he says those years were miserable. You come in every Monday and add another “L” to the column. You’re doing everything you could to help the team win and keep falling short. Thomas Davis, Ryan Kalil, Charles Johnson, you want to do it for those guys. Those guys have been in the league for a while.”
Both sides can’t have the storybook ending for their season, but a Panthers win would take things full circle for the players who were around when they went 2-14 in 2010. That season netted them the top draft pick and Cam Newton, leaving Johnson to say that whatever it took to get to this point “was meant to be.”