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Leaving the game for good is not as easy as we think

We think we know the obvious answer to the question of whether Peyton Manning should retire. But it's not for us to decide and it's not as easy as we think.

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I get it, Peyton. It's hard to say goodbye.

After growing up in the NFL life, professional football is what you know best.

After making your own life out of a game you've been playing for practically all of your 39¾ years, it's hard to leave that game behind.

After spending every waking day of at least the last 26 years making decisions around football - practice, games, training room, film study, vacations planned around the offseason, holidays missed because there's an upcoming game - it's hard to walk away.

There will be no more defenses to dissect.

No more game plans to digest.

No more "one mores" to your receivers running routes.

No more games to try to win.

And you'll miss that.

It was hard for John Elway, and he knows it's hard for you.

Giving you time to make your choice isn't just the right PR move, it's the right football move. For any player who has given his heart and soul to the game for such a long time, the choice to leave is harder than anyone thinks - except probably Elway.

"That's the hardest part is taking that final little step," Elway said about not making his decision until May 1999 after winning his second Super Bowl in two years at age 38. "They gave me that time and I did take that time. But I was pretty darn close going into my last game. Like you said it was probably 97, 98 percent positive. But that last step, that final, final, final that I'm not going to get to play this game anymore, the rest of my life, is very difficult."

As football fans, we look at the numbers and want to make the choice for you. We see the Lombardi and can't believe you don't want to just go out on top.

We see "good but no longer great; time to hang it up." You see "still room for improvement; still something to offer."

We see five-time NFL MVP, 14-time Pro Bowler, two-time Super Bowl champion, assured first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

You see another chance to do better with an offensive scheme you just learned.

We see white horse, blue-and-orange sunset.

You see a sunrise marking another day to look at film, study a defense, work on a passing route.

That last step - that final, final, final that I'm not going to get to play this game anymore, the rest of my life - is very difficult.  -John Elway

Elway mentioned that "if you wanted to go back to the grind every day," then it was up to you - as if the grind were a drawback, a chore, a reason to give it up.

But he knows better because he was the same.

It's actually the grind you crave, the thing you most do not want to give up.

The grind is the opportunity to be around a group of highly skilled players and figure out how to be a great team together.

The grind is where you begin to solve the weekly puzzle - how not just to be a great team but to be a better one than the great team opposite the line of scrimmage.

The grind is pushing each other, especially in the midst of struggle and disappointment, to be better than you thought you could.

The grind is the bond you develop with people who have vastly different backgrounds but one singular, common goal.

Most of all, the grind is what makes the score, the win, the championship rewarding. Without the grind, the championship is just a trophy.

You don't want to give up the thing that allows pure joy in succeeding, in winning.

Even if it means you don't succeed, don't win.

And that's where fans and players disconnect in this choice.

We want wins and like storybook endings.

For players like you who love the game and crave the competition, it doesn't matter if your last season ends with a championship.

It matters if it ends with you leaving it all out there.

The key to knowing when you've done that for the last time is different for every athlete and almost never comes after the big win on the biggest stage.

The euphoric feeling from that is usually too great to offer true clarity.

The truth is, you already know what you want to do. You don't need time to figure that out. You need time to be OK with it. You need time to deal with what it will mean - whether it is leaving the game for good as many think you will or whether it is coming back and dealing with all the repercussions it will mean for you and the Broncos.

I wouldn't dare give you my opinion on what is the right decision because I understand what a tough choice it is to walk away from what you love.

But I will offer this:

You will always miss dissecting the defense.

You will always miss digesting a new game plan.

You will always miss making your receivers run routes "one more time."

You will always miss trying one more week to get the win.

Whether you retire this week, next month, after next season - or actually try to beat Tom Brady to playing at 42 - you will always miss the grind.

And the day you realize and accept that, will be the day you are ready to leave it.