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Problem child?

Manziel’s antics could create issues for others

June 12, 2014
By MIKE McLAIN - Tribune Chronicle ( , Tribune Chronicle

CLEVELAND - The scenarios that could play out are endless.

Johnny Manziel let free from the drudgery of football practice for six weeks in the early days of summer fun. Who knows what inflatable objects he'll be photographed floating on at pool parties that somehow seem to find him.

So far, Manziel's penchant for acting like a college kid in search of good times hasn't bothered Browns coach Mike Pettine. For public consumption, Pettine has been supportive of Manziel's recent excursions, which included a well-publicized trip to Las Vegas for a party hosted by New England tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Then again, parents rarely say anything derogatory about their wild children to the neighbors. Behind closed doors, it's another matter.

Manziel's celebrity status has indirectly affected his new teammates simply by the large number of reporters who have attended offseason practices. Players and position battles that normally wouldn't receive national notice have suddenly become topics of reporters who have been shut out of press availability to Manziel this week.

Running back Ben Tate created a stir last week when he chastised the media for giving Manziel attention he doesn't deserve until he proves himself in the NFL. Tate had to backtrack a day later, noting that he wasn't being critical of Manziel.

The image of Manziel that teammates are pointing out is one of a hard-working teammate willing to work his way up through the ranks. The TMZ-like attention he receives on trips when he's away from the team's facility doesn't bother them as long as it doesn't adversely affect his performance level.

"I just think he's a guy who's going out enjoying his free time," receiver Nate Burleson said. "Now, if he came out here stumbling around, smelling like booze, we can have this conversation, that would be a legitimate conversation to have. But he's coming out here focused, very alert, locked in on what he's doing. Until that changes, I think everybody should let the young guy do what young guys do."

Burleson referred to Manziel as this year's version of quarterback Tim Tebow, who created a media stir in failed attempts to stick with the Broncos and Jets.

"He (Manziel) can't do anything, whether it's his play on the field (making a play, good or bad); enjoying himself in his free time," Burleson said. "He's one of those guys. You can't turn on the radio or TV without hearing something about Johnny. All I know is when he shows up for work he wants to play football. That's what I'm concerned about."

The reviews on the field have been mixed as the Browns prepare to finish offseason work with a practice today. Manziel has shown accuracy on deep throws and when throwing on the run, but he's struggled from the pocket and on some quick outs.

Handicapping the quarterback competition between Manziel and Brian Hoyer isn't easy. Inconsistency has been shown by both players. Considering that Hoyer entered offseason practices atop the depth chart, you'd have to say he's the clubhouse leader at this point.

There are six weeks of training camp and four preseason games to sort through for Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. It would be only an educated guess to say one of the two will start the season opener in Pittsburgh.

"I like competition at any position," Burleson said. "When you have two guys that are hungry and want to start and be the head of an organization at the quarterback position, for whatever reason - whether you're coming off an injury like 'B' (Hoyer) or you're a guy that's taken most of the criticism and handled it well like Johnny - both have more than enough reason to want to play and be very good at the position.

"I feel like we're fortunate to have that because there are teams right now that don't have that competition. They have one guy and then everybody else is destined to be the back up."

It will make for an interesting month of August.



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