Browns rookie Johnny Manziel expressed regret about some of his recent off-field behavior and vowed to fully commit to football as he enters his first NFL training camp and resumes his competition against veteran Brian Hoyer for the starting quarterback job.
“I made some rookie mistakes,” Manziel, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, said Friday during a news conference at the team’s headquarters. “There’s some things I wish could’ve gone back and done a little differently, but [I’m] continuing to move forward and try and represent this organization and this team in a positive manner, in a positive light. [I’m] just very excited to be back in camp, and it’s football 24-7. It’s what I love doing. It’s what I live for, and it’s what my job is.”
Manziel has traveled across the country and partied virtually every week since late May. The Browns downplayed his antics for a while, but things eventually reached a boiling point, compelling coach Mike Pettine and General Manager Ray Farmer to broach the subject with Manziel and express their concerns.
The Browns were startled when a photograph of Manziel rolling money in a bathroom surfaced online this month.
“I’ve talked about that [photo] with Coach Pettine. I’ve talked about it with Farmer and the people I needed to talk about that with,” Manziel said. “Moving forward, they’re good with everything. I’ve told them everything that I need to, and everything’s been good.”
Manziel declined to elaborate on the topic, but his conversations with Pettine and Farmer were not limited to the money-rolling photo.
“Me and Coach Pettine and Ray Farmer have really talked about a lot of things that have transpired over the course of the offseason,” Manziel said. “For me, my main thing is people within this building, my teammates, coaching staff, the higher-ups in this organization, we’ve all been on the same page. We’ve all been good and are very eager to be moving forward.”
Pettine believes Manziel, who reported to camp Wednesday along with quarterbacks, rookies and injured veterans, will be all business from here on out. He insisted all of the quarterbacks proved they’ve been studying the playbook on their team-issued iPads.
“It was clear to see that all of them, especially Johnny, have worked ahead,” Pettine said. “... He’s very focused. I think that’s already showed up in the way he came in and how he attacked his conditioning test and how he’s been in the meetings and on the field these past two days.”
Pettine, though, conceded Hoyer has an advantage in the quarterback derby and acknowledged it’ll be difficult for Manziel to surpass him during camp. The rookie NFL head coach revealed Hoyer would take the reps with the first-team offense for the first couple of practices of camp while Manziel works with the second unit. The coaches will then meet again and decide how the reps should be divided based on how the competition goes.
But the bottom line is Hoyer will play the role of the starter when the Browns take the field from 9:30 a.m.-12:10 p.m. Saturday for the first full-squad practice of camp. Hoyer is also slated to start the preseason opener Aug. 9 at Detroit.
“Barring unforeseen events, I would see Brian starting the preseason opener,” Pettine said. “It’s still a chunk of time, though, to get there, but I think it’s safe to say that.”
Hoyer is confident he’ll maintain his lead against Manziel and start the regular-season opener Sept. 7 at Pittsburgh.
“I want the best quarterback to play,” said Hoyer, a North Olmsted native and St. Ignatius High School graduate. “All you can ask for is the opportunity to be that guy. ... I’m confident I am that guy.”
Hoyer’s faith is aided by the success he achieved last season. He led the Browns to back-to-back wins last fall before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Oct. 3. The season unraveled from there. The Browns finished with a record of 4-12, overhauled the coaching staff and front office and selected Manziel in the first round to be their quarterback of the future.
“The competition will bring out the best player in me, but I also think the thing that drives me the most is my goal of being the starting quarterback for this team,” said Hoyer, who has been cleared to fully participate in 11-on-11 drills Saturday for the first time since he was hurt. “So, obviously, there is a competition, but I think in the most part, I’m competing with myself. That’s the way I look at it. That’s what drives me every day to be the best player that I can.
“To have just a taste of it last year and then have it ripped away, it makes you realize how much you love the game and how much it means to you to have something taken away from you like that, especially when you’ve waited for an opportunity for a long time. So it drove me for the past nine months and it will continue to drive me.”
Pettine has committed to naming a starting quarterback before the third preseason game Aug. 23 against the St. Louis Rams. The timetable clearly favors Hoyer, but Manziel believes there is still enough time for him to win the job. He also insisted he doesn’t view himself as an underdog.
“Coach Pettine and the staff here has called this an open competition,” Manziel said. “And I believe that it is.”
Manziel doesn’t think the recent “rookie mistakes” he admitted to making off the field have hurt him in the position battle.
“I don’t believe so,” Manziel said. “I think there are definitely things moving forward to help better act as a professional. At the same time, I’m still learning how to do that. I’m still getting used to this role, still getting used to this league, still getting used to being a pro football player. I’m not in college anymore. There’s things I need to do better, and that’s just part of being a professional. Hopefully with time and going through this season and as time goes on, I’ll get better at doing that.”
Although Manziel conceded he needs to better represent the organization when he hits the town, he made it clear he doesn’t feel guilty about going out. The former Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M might want to take back some of his actions, but he’s not going to apologize for everything he’s done this offseason.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me going out and having a nightlife and having a social life,” Manziel said. “I mean I am 21 years old, and I do like going out. It was the offseason. It’s free time for us and if I want to go out and hang out with my friends or go to nightclubs and do things like that, I think that’s within my rights to be doing that and I think there’s other guys throughout the league that are doing that. I’m not trying to compare myself to anybody else, but I think that’s within my rights to be doing that.”
Now the Browns have their eyes on Johnny Football more than ever, and they’re watching to see where he’ll draw the line.
By Nate Ulrich - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)
©2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services