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It’s the catch that he’ll never forget, but doesn’t want to remember.
New York Giants receiver Mario Manningham split wide left on a first-and-10 with the Giants trailing the New England Patriots, 17-15, in Super Bowl XLVI. Quarterback Eli Manning dropped back, planted his back foot, took a crow hop and let the ball fly in Manningham’s direction.
As the ball hung in the air, Manningham slowly pulled away from his defender, reached up, made the catch and kept both feet in bounds while absorbing a hit.
The highlight reel grab is one that will live on in Super Bowl glory for as long as the game is played. In Manningham’s mind? He’s tried to forget “The Catch” the moment he pointed down the field to signal a first down.
“I remember it,” Manningham said, “but I don’t think about it. I’m just trying to make some more plays.”
In order to make more, Manningham will have to earn a spot on the Giants 53-man roster. After two dismal and injury-filled seasons in San Francisco, Manningham made his way back to New York this offseason and into a crowded receivers’ room.
There are roster locks Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jerrel Jernigan. Then, there’s Manningham, rookie Corey Washington, Marcus Harris, Trindon Holliday and others all vying for one, potentially two, spots. For the first time in his career, Manningham isn’t a lock to make a team.
While there have been glimpses at Giants training camp of the old “Super Mario” who once dazzled fans and eluded defenders at MetLife Stadium, the flashes have been few and far between. Far more often is Manningham dropping passes than catching them. He admits his surgically repaired knee isn’t 100 percent, but it is “getting better” each and every day. Two weeks ago, Manningham said he wasn’t entirely comfortable cutting or planting. Now, that’s not the case.
“I’m comfortable,” Manningham said. “I’m real confident in sticking my foot in the ground and going out there and just not thinking about it.”
Presently, Manningham finds himself behind Marcus Harris and Corey Washington on the team’s depth chart. Harris has caught nearly everything throw his way in training camp. Corey Washington has caught the game-winning touchdown in each of New York’s first two preseason games.
Manningham? He’s dropped six passes in his last two practices and has just one reception on three targets for 17 yards in two preseason games.
But none of that’s on the 28-year-old’s mind. Right now, he’s just determined to make plays, something he used to do on a regular basis in New York.
In 2010 and 2011, Manningham’s final two season with the Giants, he caught 99 passes for 1,467 yards and 13 touchdowns. Manningham left New York for San Francisco as a free agent following his Super Bowl catch. Before tearing his ACL and PCL with the 49ers in 2012, Manningham caught 41 passes for 449 yards in nine games started.
Can Manningham return to that receiver? Or have injures taken away a career that once seamed on a path to super stardom? Manningham believes he’s still a player and he knows he needs to do just one thing to convince others.
“Just ball, just go play ball,” Manningham said. “Don’t worry about anything else.”
That means not his place on the depth chart, not his surgically repaired knee and most certainly not his famous catch.