The end does not often come with grace and red carpet farewells in pro football.
A knee gets twisted beyond repair. A collision jolts someone into a head-fogging concussion.
Baseball’s Derek Jeter got a tribute-laden season with fond parting gifts.
But Peyton Manning gets the Carolina Panthers defense and, the commissioner says, a “thorough investigation” into alleged HGH use.
At age 39, the Denver Broncos quarterback says he welcomes the latter. A report in December by Al Jazeera America said that an Indianapolis clinic mailed human growth hormone to Manning’s address.
“Complete junk,” Manning called the report, saying he plans to fully cooperate with any upcoming NFL probe.
“I know exactly what they’re going to find — a big, fat nothing.”
Omaha, Omaha! Like everything else, Peyton Manning has got this.
He once owned the most proficient arm in pro football. But a neck injury threatened his career and prompted his exodus from Indianapolis.
“My arm is what it is,” Manning said during this Super Bowl 50 week. “It hasn’t been the same since I got injured four years ago.
“I had a strange injury. I had a neck injury that caused some nerve problems in my right arm.
“I’ve worked hard to sort of manage with the physical limitations, and I’ve gotten to a place where I think I can be effective, and that’s where it is.”
In the autumn of Manning’s 18th professional season, he had to miss six games. When he did play during the regular season, he threw for nine touchdowns but had 17 interceptions and his quarterback rating (44.96) was easily the worst of his career.
Hence, the retirement speculation that hovers over every Manning appearance this week.
But again — Omaha! — Manning has a ready response to it.
“I haven’t made up my mind,” he said Monday, “but I don’t see myself knowing that until after the season.
“I’m going to kind of stay in the moment and focus on the big task at hand with the Panthers in the Super Bowl on Sunday. And I’m going to stick with that philosophy.”
It has been reported that Manning has enlisted the services of crisis management expert Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary, whose previous clients include Tiger Woods and Mark McGwire. But Fleischer likely is simply a lineman who’s prematurely downfield.
Manning, who once brilliantly hosted Saturday Night Live, is going to be more than capable of stiff-arming CSI: Roger Goodell himself.
Think about it. The NFL has a concussion crisis and haunting domestic assault issues, fueled by what appear to be hundreds of steroid-impassioned players who perform with borderline ill intent.
Yet, the NFL wants to “thoroughly investigate” a half-baked report from a now-defunct network about a 39-year-old who’s been the league’s foremost ambassador and is probably about to play in his final game?
What’s Goodell going to do — ban Peyton from Madden 2017?
Manning isn’t running from the HGH story this week. He doesn’t have to. Like his now infamous audible call — “Omaha! Omaha!” — he sees what’s coming and he’s adjusted.
Funny, though, but the one thing that seems to have caught Manning, ever overly prepared, somewhat off guard this Super Bowl week is the magnitude of the realization that this could be his final game.
“Whatever cliché you want to use,” he said of his prepared “stay in the moment” answer.
Clearly, Peyton Manning deserves a grander goodbye. A Jeter farewell.
He doesn’t need a crisis manager. But when he retires after Sunday, his many fans probably will.
Super Bowl 50
Broncos vs. Panthers
5:30 p.m. Sunday,
Santa Clara, Calif. , TV: KTVT/11