Jason Miller/Getty Images
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Heeeeeere’s Johnny!

He’s a second-string quarterback on the first day of Browns training camp, but all eyes are fixated on Johnny Manziel

By
Jenny Vrentas
· More from Jenny·

BEREA, Ohio — Johnny Manziel’s first training camp practice, like for the rest of his teammates, began with warm-ups. The quarterbacks were loosening up their arms with easy, short passes to the running backs. That’s when a security guard, walking between a gallery of fans and the field, suddenly dropped to the ground.

“Dear God!” he called out. “I don’t want to stand in front of Johnny Football.”

Everyone wants to keep an eye on Johnny Manziel, right?

So begins the Cleveland Browns’ 2014 season. Fans scooped up all 4,000 free online tickets for yesterday’s practice, and the next five, and all 25,000 seats for next weekend’s Family Day scrimmage in Akron. There were Johnny Cleveland tees, and fans wearing Texas A&M colors, and a guy who taped green money signs onto his No. 2 Browns jersey. A couple dozen media members formed a gauntlet outside the door leading from the locker room to the practice field, waiting for Manziel to emerge, which happened at 9:22 a.m.

Then, the most polarizing rookie in the NFL went out and had a pretty plain Day 1 of training camp practice. Brian Hoyer worked with the starters, as expected. Manziel worked with the second-team offense, as expected. He passed 15 times, handed off to a running back on seven plays, took a couple would-be sacks and took off running once in 11-on-11 team drills—to cheers from fans close enough to see.

There were no pads in this practice, no Johnny package of plays. Not yet.

“The really great athletes,” owner Jimmy Haslam said after practice, “make their news on the field, not off the field.”

Yes, that was a scolding. Manziel’s summer partying—including the infamous picture of him rolling up a bill in a Vegas bathroom—was captured by paparazzi and social media for all to see. “We expect better from him,” Haslam added, naming LeBron James and Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and Derek Jeter as examples.

It was also a way of imploring Manziel to deliver on his physical gifts. The Browns have certainly prepared their fan base for the possibility of seeing Manziel on the bench Week 1. The starting quarterback job is up for grabs, but Hoyer has been given first crack at it, having been assigned precious reps with the first-team offensive line in the opening practices and the first preseason game. But like the security guard referenced, everyone’s keeping an eye on Manziel.

Even Hoyer, described as a “class act,” doesn’t pretend off-the-field lifestyles matter in a QB competition. “No one is going to cheer for a good guy if he is 4-12.”

Head coach Mike Pettine likens Manziel’s transition—from a Texas A&M offense that encouraged his freelancing ways to an NFL offense with play calls as long as a dozen words—to trying to drive at 200 miles per hour. If you accelerate all at once you’ll crash, but you can build up to it over time. That process is now underway, under the watchful eye of Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Robert Griffin III’s former tutor. Shanahan was constantly offering instruction on the practice field yesterday morning. For instance, during a drill that had the quarterbacks throwing short out routes, Shanahan reminded Manziel not to stare down the receivers.

“Johnny,” Shanahan called from the middle of the field, “try and look at me as long as you can before you throw.”

Once, Hoyer helped show Manziel where to line up for a drill. But they don’t have much interaction on the practice field. They want the same thing, after all. Hoyer, the hometown boy, spotted a pal he played youth baseball with in the crowd yesterday. Manziel, the first-round pick, was surrounded by hundreds of people wearing his name and considers LeBron James “a business partner of mine.” Sure, Haslam prefers Hoyer’s off-the-field style at this point (he called him a “class act”), but even Hoyer doesn’t pretend that matters in a quarterback competition. “No one is going to cheer for a good guy if he is 4-12,” he said.

Breaking Down the Browns

Andy Benoit has a full breakdown of the 2014 Browns as the team opens up training camp. FULL STORY

When Manziel returned to Ohio from his lively summer break, he had a talk with Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer, and on the eve of training camp, he opened his press conference with a statement acknowledging his “rookie mistakes.” But through his self-psychoanalysis—stick with us here—he rationalizes that the same traits that make him a spectacle off the field make him a spectacle on the field, too.

“Here’s the thing that I want to say,” Manziel said. “The reason I’m popular, the reason people follow me and there’s been such a buzz around me is when I went out on Saturdays at Texas A&M, I played with an extreme amount of passion, I wore my heart on my sleeve. But more than anything, I had fun. … It’s the same way off the field.”

Maybe that was on Manziel’s mind yesterday because he was back playing football again. Or maybe that was a justification for doing what he wants to do in his free time. But the people of Cleveland, who have stood by the team through a string of quarterbacks named Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson and Brandon Weeden, can certainly get behind having some more fun on the field.

So some of them chanted, “Here we go, Johnny!” and willed him to take off running and mimicked his infamous “show me the money” finger rub. All eyes on Johnny Manziel, for the time being the most popular backup quarterback since—hey-o!—Tim Tebow.

Pettine, glancing around on his way off the practice field, said: “Nothing I haven’t seen before.”

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22 comments
fullback
fullback

I take it back. Not fair to Johnny! Give him a chance, maybe he;ll surprize us?

fullback
fullback

What's so great about Johnny Manziel? What has he done for us lately?


number18
number18

Haslam the thief who stole billions from motorists across the USA is talkin' about character??

EricVonHollen
EricVonHollen

another Manziel article.  Go find something else to write about

Dani
Dani

Manziel has 'bust' written all over him. Nonetheless, it will be a very entertaining season. Not for the Browns fans, though.

Kevin11
Kevin11

Getting drunk with celebrities at EDM "concerts" is very important to people like him. 

brokaw
brokaw

Because Lebron James doesn't party in vegas.  


Oh whoops, looks like Jimmy Haslam is an idiot.


And a criminal.

SandersonKramer
SandersonKramer

What the Browns (Yes I do Know more than them) and some naysayers don't realize is that they will never make the playoffs with Brian Hoyer who is mediocre at best and with Johnny Manziel they have a chance to make the playoffs until proven otherwise, so they should start Manziel. Nothing will be accomplished by starting Hoyer whatsoever, they will never make the Playoffs with him, so why bother.

badcyclist1
badcyclist1

Manziel's three year timeline: hype, sputter, a couple of good games, hope, hype, sputter, scandal, sputter, flame out, Dancing With The Stars, all-time bust list.


The only question is whether, on balance, it is going to be entertaining or painful to watch.

tonybot3
tonybot3

@number18 He owned a company in which employees defrauded people. Unless you can lay this at the feet of Haslam, (which the FBI has been unable to do) you are slandering him.   Then, when he found out about it, he quickly moved to reimburse everyone.

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@number18 billions?  as in plural?  I'm not forgiving the man but it wasn't that much.  remember, they paid rebates, but not as much as they should have.  just to use a minor example, if I owe you $100 and I only pay you $85 by putting my thumb on the scale and making it appear even to you that I only owed you $85, then I stole $15 from you.


they paid out a lot in rebates, over and over.  it isn't like they could explain away 85% of the rebate you know.  


you're saying the part they kept totaled in the billions?  how much did they pay out in rebates then?  then how much business did they do to be able to pay out billions and billions in rebates, enough that the portion they stole amounted to billions?



Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@EricVonHollen you see, when we click on them, it causes them to write more of them.  so you help create more of them by clicking on the article (even if it's just to comment and not read the article) to say you don't want them.


guess you do or you would not have clicked on the article

Wombat
Wombat

@SandersonKramer Yes, the Browns may have a better chance to make the playoffs with Manziel but they also have a better chance to make headlines like Manziel Arrested! Season Sunk!


Time to roll the dice Cleveland!

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@badcyclist1 i think you were correct until the very end.  all but the all time bust.  he was a 22nd pick.  not the 1st or 2nd pick.


Johnny can't be like Ryan Leaf, or Jamarcus Russell etc...  he'll be a bust, not an all time bust.

tonybot3
tonybot3

@DudeMeetsDad give me the guy who thinks he can win.   Hint.... that Manziel, not Bridgewater.

SandersonKramer
SandersonKramer

@KristianColasacco @badcyclist1 Let's say you are right, which I don't believe. Is losing with mediocrity with Brian Hoyer any better as a loss is still a loss and not making the Playoffs is still not making the playoffs. There is no upside in starting Brian Hoyer as they will not now or in the future win enough games to make the Playoffs. Why not see if they can make the Playoffs (eventually) with Manziel as opposed to never making the playoffs with Brian Hoyer.

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