Confident rookie quarterback Manziel erratic early with Browns
BEREA, Ohio — Amid the incessant chants of “Johnny, Johnny,” Cleveland Browns prized rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel played to an appreciative crowd of more than 4,000 by taking a few extra snaps after Sunday's practice.
Already, the former Heisman Trophy winner seems to be the people's choice to get the starting nod in the season opener against the Steelers on Sept. 7 at Heinz Field.
However, first-year coach Mike Pettine appears far more practical — if not more realistic.
In an effort to alleviate some of the inevitable pressures and scrutiny Manziel likely will endure, Pettine designated journeyman Brian Hoyer as the preseason starter long before training camp opened Saturday.
“Coach Pettine called it a competition, and I believe that it is,” Manziel said. “I'm just trying to get here every day and hone my craft. Whatever my role is on this team will be decided in the next few weeks.”
As the Browns wrapped up their second day of camp, general manager Ray Farmer left plenty of wiggle room for Pettine to change his mind.
When asked if he would be shocked if Hoyer isn't the starter on Opening Day, Farmer stayed open-minded.
“I don't think I'll be surprised or shocked at anything,” Farmer said. “What we're focusing on now is driving competition, meaning Brian will have to play and Johnny will have to play.
“I've seen a young man (Manziel) who is prepared for competition, and that's what we want. We've seen him in the building putting in the work to be the starter.”
On Sunday, Manziel hardly looked like a starter.
He appeared confident but largely was erratic during passing drills. He rifled the ball between the numbers of wide receiver Andrew Hawkins on 10-yard curl route but missed low and wide on a simple sideline route to receiver Miles Austin.
“I don't know if I want to stand here every day just walking off the field and evaluate the performance,” Pettine said. “Until we watch the tape and look at the grade sheets and kind of know what was asked of him and what he did and making sure the guys around him are doing the right thing, I don't know how much true evaluation I'll be able to offer.”
As he often did at Texas A&M, Manziel proved resilient when a play unraveled. He fumbled the snap in the shotgun formation but recovered quickly to toss a dart to receiver Taylor Gabriel.
Hoyer, who last season suffered a season-ending knee injury after leading the Browns to three straight wins, seemed far more poised after a shaky start Saturday.
“Obviously, the competition will bring out the best in me,” Hoyer said. “I think, for the most part, I'm competing for myself. I was held back in the spring, but now it's time to go.”
Said Pettine: “I think anybody coming off (an ACL injury), it's just human nature, may be a little flighty early with lots of big bodies flying around. I think he'll only get more comfortable as we go.”
So far, few are questioning Manziel's athleticism.
But Manziel, generously listed as 6-foot in the Browns' program, was erratic enough over the first two days of training camp to cause some to wonder if he could stand up to the immeasurable demands of being the franchise quarterback.
“I'm not going to shy down from competition,” Manziel said. “As time goes on, I'll get better. I'm going over things again and again. There will be times when I make mistakes, but I'm not worried about that because I'll get better.
“My main thing is that people in this building and this organization — including my teammates — have been involved in getting on the same page. I'm living football 24/7, because it's what I love doing and it's what my job is.
“What I want is what's best for the team,” he continued. “It's not about me or about Brian Hoyer. It takes 22 positions to make this whole thing work.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NFL notebook: Owners vote to suspend TV blackout policy
- NFL notebook: Saints, RB Ingram agree to 4-year extension
- NFL notebook: Change to extra points likely in 2015
- NFL notebook: Dolphins trade WR Wallace to Vikings
- Pro Football Hall of Famer Bednarik dies
- NFL notebook: Jets file tampering charges against Patriots over comments about Revis
- 49ers’ Tomsula proud of Steel City roots