There was a time when Mario Manningham’s roster spot was all but guaranteed.
Back in 2008, the New York Giants drafted him in the third round. In four seasons, he displayed the ability to be a down-field threat who also had the ability to make people miss in space. When he entered free agency following New York’s Super Bowl championship in 2011, he was considered an up-and-coming No. 1 wide receiver.
Then injuries happened. And the budding super star was labeled an injury-prone has-been.
“It was frustrating,” Manningham said. “But (injuries) are part of the game.”
Now six years removed form hearing his name called on draft day, Manningham’s roster status is as up in the air as the passes he once pulled down. Despite being 28 years old, Manningham’s body looks much older than that.
After leaving the Giants, Manningham signed a two-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers. In his first year, he tore both the ACL and PCL in his left knee. Manningham was placed on injured reserve and started the 2013 season on the physically unable to perform list. He returned in November, but was once again placed on injured reserve when he wasn’t deemed physically healthy.
The 49ers elected to let Manningham walk in free agency and he found his way back to the Giants. He sat out the entire offseason conditioning program and has been ‘limited’ in training camp. Despite being two years removed form the initial injury, Manningham still doesn’t feel 100 percent.
“I know my knee is fixed, I just need confidence,” Manningham said. “It’s me sticking my foot in the ground and going. Everyday it gets better and better.”
But while Manningham works to return to the ‘Super Mario’ that once dazzled fans at MetLife Stadium, other healthy options on the roster have stepped up in the process. Marcus Harris has caught nearly every pass thrown his way. Corey Washington has impressed, too. Manningham says he’s “close,” but is it too late?
For the first time in his career, Manningham’s roster position isn’t guaranteed. And he knows it.
“It’s not easy because I know I still have to make the team,” Manningham said. “There’s no real pressure in the back of my mind whether it’s me or them. I’m gonna prepare myself like I’m going to try to make the team.”