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Eli Manning’s return is a much-needed, feel-good story

They say it’s been business as usual all week.

But it has not.

They insist that nothing’s changed during the week of practice.

But it has.

For at least the three hours across Monday Night Football in Philadelphia, everything changes for the Giants because Eli Manning will be back at quarterback for them after sitting out the past 10 games, benched in favor of rookie Daniel Jones.

So, at 2-10 and having lost their past eight games, the Giants are going back to the future — maybe just for one game, maybe two, possibly for the final four games of the season.

Good for Eli.

No one — maybe not even Eli — knows what’s going to happen after this season, but this much was certain: Without Jones suffering an ankle sprain in last week’s loss to the Packers (or being knocked out with any injury during this final month), we’d seen the last of Manning in a Giants uniform.

There was never going to be a ceremonial send-off series or three before season’s end, because Manning never would have signed off on it. Remember, he rejected keeping his remarkable consecutive-starts streak going with a ceremonial start when then-coach Ben McAdoo curiously opted to start none other than Geno Smith in his place late in the lost 2017 season.

Even if you’re a diehard Giants fan and you believe Manning’s career has been overrated based on his lack of consistency (he owns a 116-116 career record) despite his clutch gene (two Super Bowl MVPs), you should be happy to see him playing for one final time, or two, three or four.

You won’t find a player in the Giants locker room — regardless of how high their respect is for Jones, the franchise quarterback of the future — who isn’t moved to see Manning play one more time.

“We talk about the football gods, and I’m a firm believer in the football gods,’’ veteran safety Antoine Bethea told The Post. “It’s a story.’’

Yes, it is. It’s a welcome story in a lost Giants season that’s been littered with too many of them that haven’t been so welcome.

“For what Eli has meant to this organization, what he’s done for the city and this team, to be able to see him go back out there on a Monday night, on the national stage against an NFC East opponent, I think the football gods are writing a good story,’’ Bethea said. “I know he’s fired up to go back out there, and I’m excited to see what he can do for us.’’

I asked no fewer than a dozen or so of Manning’s teammates and coaches if they’ve noticed a different look in his eye in practices this week. The answers ended up being rather predictable, knowing who Manning is and always has been, which is an all-time flat-liner.

“Same Eli,’’ Bethea said.

“Eli is so steady, you wouldn’t know the difference,’’ left tackle Nate Solder said.

“He’s got the same demeanor he had at the beginning of the season to when they made the switch to now that he’s back starting,’’ veteran safety and special teamer Michael Thomas said.

“He’s always prepared as if he’s going to be the starter,’’ center Jon Halapio said. “His preparation hasn’t changed. It’s just that he’s the starter again.’’

Good for Eli.

“I’m happy to have him back out there,’’ receiver Sterling Shepard said. “He can still sling the ball, and I’m sure he’s amped up to get back out there and play. He’s been preparing like he was going to be that guy every week. This week it’s actually happening.’’

Cornerback Sam Beal has reveled in merely being in Manning’s presence his rookie season, even if Manning hasn’t been playing.

“Since I first got here, he was always the GOAT to me,’’ Beal said. “Just to see him in the locker room was always a special moment for me. To see him back out on the field is going to be great. For him, I think it’s going to be like muscle memory. He’s been doing it for so long, I think it’s going to be smooth for him.’’

Thomas called Manning “a legend’’ and “a pro’s pro.’’

“All we ever ask for as players is an opportunity,’’ Thomas said. “When you see somebody given another opportunity like this … it’s impossible not to root for him.’’

How can anyone not?

Good for Eli.

Original article: https://nypost.com/2019/12/08/eli-mannings-return-is-a-much-needed-feel-good-story/

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