PHOENIX — John Mara admits he has a soft spot in his heart for Eli Manning, and not only because of the two newest Lombardi Trophies behind glass at the Giants team facility. Mara, though, grew hot under the collar when it was insinuated he is keeping the 38-year-old quarterback around because of sentiment.

“I’ve read that and I have to tell you that really gets under my skin because that is absolutely nonsense,’’ Mara, his voice rising, said Sunday at the NFL annual league meeting. “Do I feel a certain amount of sentimentality towards Eli? Of course I do. Would I ever let that get in the way of making a football decision? Absolutely not! And I cannot believe some of you write that.’’

Mara, sitting beside co-owner Steve Tisch, has heard plenty of negative reaction to moves made by the Giants this offseason, from trading away Odell Beckham Jr., to keeping Manning and not at least putting the franchise tag on safety Landon Collins.

Mara knows shipping out Beckham is an emotionally charged issue, and seeing Collins leave and sign with the Redskins was not a pleasing sight.
“It killed me to see him go,’’ Mara said.

The accusation that the Giants are too wrapped up in loyalty to Manning, though, burned Mara most of all.

“We would never tell a coach or a general manager we’ve got to keep this guy because we love and him and because he’s done so much for the franchise,’’ Mara said. “Make a football decision based on whether you think he can play or not, and if you think he can and you have a conviction and the coach has a conviction, that’s fine. I’m never going to interfere with that based on my sentiment towards a player.’’

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