McNair, Manning earn co-MVP honors   printer  

Titans QB Steve McNair and Colts QB Peyton Manning have earned a share of the NFL's MVP award for 2003.

NASHVILLE, TN, Jan. 2, 2004 (AP) -- Star quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Steve McNair reached the individual pinnacle of the NFL on Friday when they shared The Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player award.

In just the third tie since the award began in 1957, the premier passers each received 16 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL.

"This is such a tremendous honor," Manning said. "Obviously you look at all the former winners, it really is an honor to be on that same list, and to have such great teammates and a coaching staff that allowed me to go out and make plays.

"And to be sharing it with Steve, a player I have the most respect for and who has had a tremendous year, and to be ahead of guys like Tom Brady, who's a friend of mine, and Jamal Lewis, a former teammate of mine at Tennessee who easily could have been there, as well, it's tremendous."

Added McNair: "It is great, my words can't express how I feel being co-MVP with another great quarterback like Peyton. It's very emotional right now for me that people look at me as being one of the top quarterbacks of the NFL, one of the top players, and a co-MVP."

New England quarterback Brady finished third with eight votes, followed by Baltimore running back Lewis, the AP Offensive Player of the Year, with five. Kansas City running back Priest Holmes got three votes, and Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, the AP Defensive Player of the Year, received two.

Unlike the seemingly indestructible Manning, who's never missed a start in his six pro seasons, McNair has played hurt for much of his career. This season, he missed the last month of practice with a strained right calf and sprained left ankle that also has a cracked bone spur. Those injuries also sidelined him for two games.

But the NFL has learned how tough the nine-year veteran is. And how dangerous he is, even though McNair no longer is the running threat he was early in his career. Now, he is a superb pocket passer, accurate and strong-armed. His 100.4 rating in 2003 edged Manning's 99.0 atop the league rankings.

McNair certainly is impressed by Manning's achievements, which include leading the league this season with 4,267 yards passing and topping the AFC with 29 TD passes. He has thrown 25 or more TD passes in each of the past six seasons - the only player to accomplish the feat.

"It's just his knowledge of the game," McNair said. "When Peyton came in, there were very few guys who came in and started, and Peyton did a good job learning from his mistakes his first year. He came back and had a magnificent career, a student of the game, extra film work, learning the game mentally."

Manning and McNair make it three straight years a quarterback has been selected most valuable player. Oakland's Rich Gannon won last year and Kurt Warner was the 2001 MVP.

The other ties came in 1997 (Brett Favre and Barry Sanders) and in 1960 (Norm Van Brocklin and Joe Schmidt).