By Chris Emma–

INDIANAPOLIS (CBS) — Cardinals coach Bruce Arians showed his respect for Peyton Manning on Wednesday, calling the quarterback “The GOAT” — greatest of all time.

Then came a follow-up question amid his NFL Combine media session, inquiring on what Arians thought of the sexual assault allegations from Manning’s time at Tennessee.

“To me, it’s sensationalism,” Arians said. “(It’s) somebody trying to get their name out there and use him for a stepping stone. That’s just my personal opinion.”

That somebody is Shaun King, whose title is senior justice writer for the New York Daily News. He’s also an activist for the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Feb. 13, King unveiled a lengthy piece titled “Peyton Manning’s squeaky-clean image was built on lies,” in which he cited court documents and the display of an alleged “smear campaign” against the accuser.

Arians served as Manning’s quarterbacks coach from his rookie season of 1998 through 2000 in Indianapolis. A two-time NFL Coach of the Year, Arians remains supportive of Manning, even with such accusations being levied.

The allegations against Manning came just six days following a Super Bowl 50 victory with the Broncos that was perhaps his final game in the NFL. The 39-year-old Manning’s mulling retirement.

A sexual harassment complaint made by a trainer against Manning in 1996 while he was at Tennessee has come into a renewed spotlight following King’s piece and as it’s been mentioned in a separate Title IX lawsuit against the university.

 

The trainer, Jamie Ann Naughright, settled in 1997, but she sued Manning for defamation in 2002 after he discussed the incident in a book. That lawsuit was settled in 2003.

Her original claim involved a 1996 incident in which Manning exposed his buttocks as Naughright, then known as Jamie Whited, bent over to examine his foot in a training room. Manning said at the time it was a prank intended for another athlete. The Title IX lawsuit says Manning had “sat on her face” while she was assessing the extent of an injury.

There’s much debate as to what happened in the incident.

“If we’re all going to get nitpicked for what we did in college, we’re all in trouble,” Arians said. “We all did things in college when we were growing. This is a bigger story, I think, because of who he is and what he just did, not what happened back then.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this article. Chris Emma covers the Chicago sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.