After a comprehensive and emotional speech at his retirement press conference, delivered while reading from prepared notes (which further highlights his perpetual commitment to preparation), Peyton Manning took questions from reporters attending the event.
Eventually, Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today asked Manning, with due deference and sensitivity, about the claim from former University of Tennessee trainer Jamie Naughright that he exposed himself to her, and made contact with her head and face with his buttocks and more, in the training room on February 29, 1996.
“Over the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of talk about things that happened 20 years ago in your career and in your life,” Jones said. “What can you say now about those allegations and how this has maybe overtaken [his retirement]?”
“First off, this is a joyous day. Nothing can overtake this day,” Manning said. “I think it is sad that some people don’t understand the truth and the facts. And I did not do what has been alleged and I am not interested in re-litigating something that happened when I was 19 years old. Kinda like my dad used to say when I was in trouble, I can’t say it any plainer than that. So this is a joyous day, and a special day. Like Forrest Gump said, ‘That’s all I have to say about that.'” (The ESPN feed dropped just as Manning was issuing his denial; the NFL Network feed did not.)
Whether Manning said enough in that moment to violate the terms of the settlement agreement that concluded the defamation lawsuit filed against him by Jamie Naughright in 2002 remains to be seen. Whether Naughright chooses to accuse him of violating the agreement is a separate matter; she’s already done it once before, and she has a history of making multiple legal claims.
Regardless, Manning has made it clear that he denies doing what he was accused of doing by Naughright. It’s not the first time he has ever denied it, but it’s the first time he has denied it since the issue first arose more than three weeks ago.