Johnny Manziel may finally be taking his job seriously after becoming the butt of many a joke during his rookie campaign.
The second-year pro has impressed his teammates since rejoining the Cleveland Browns following a lengthy stay in rehab for alcohol abuse. You can now add offensive coordinator John DeFilippo to the list of people who have vouched for his reformation:
“Johnny’s been great,” DeFilippo said after the second rookie camp practice Saturday, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer. “He’s been fantastic. What he wants to talk about, before he stepped foot back in this building is his business. All I know is Johnny the football player, and he’s been awesome. He’s been working hard, very hard with myself and (quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell), and doing what we want him to do on the field.”
When asked if Manziel was doing enough work to become an NFL quarterback, Defilippo responded:
“All I know is this: From the moment he stepped in this building from the last two weeks, he’s been nothing but a consummate professional. He’s spent every hour that he’s been allowed to spend in this building. We give them worksheets every Tuesday and every Friday, and they’re done to the unbelievable detail that we need an NFL quarterback to do. From that standpoint, like I said I can’t predict the future, but all I can do is tell you right now Johnny Manziel is putting himself in a position to be a quarterback in the NFL.”
None of this, of course, means Manziel is going to be the starting quarterback for the Browns this year.
In fact, based on head coach Mike Pettine, Cleveland fully expects veteran Josh McCown to be the man leading the offense in 2015.
“We’re not going to start talking competition,” Pettine said, per the Scott Petrak of the Chronicle-Telegram. “Josh will more than likely be the starter going into camp, and in the foreseeable future I don’t see that changing.”
Note the “more than likely,” in Pettine’s statement.
Clearly, the Browns would love for Manziel to continue pounding away at learning the playbook. Clearly the team would be thrilled if Johnny Football were to prove himself worthy of the starting role. Not only would he pack the house on Sundays, but his unique skills would give the Browns a fighting chance to win.
The franchise has dangled the carrot in front of Manziel.
What Pettine is saying is this: Continue working your butt off, continue spending the necessary time in the film room, the weight room and in the classroom. Show us you’re the guy we thought you were when we traded up to the No. 22 overall spot in the 2014 NFL draft.
If Manziel can continue to respond positively to all these challenges—if he can continue to stay out of nightclubs in order to spend that time at team facilities instead—then there’s no reason he cannot work himself into the starting lineup this year.
And maybe, just maybe, he could finally inject life into a franchise that has experienced nothing but death and heartache for the past 40-plus years.
Photo: USA Today Sports