BEREA, Ohio -- Johnny Manziel explained Saturday that he has an awesome life and he enjoys every second of it, on and off the field.
He also clarified that the reason there’s such a buzz about him is that he has fun, whether it’s playing football, golfing or clubbing.
So, there’s that. It’s always good, after all, to come to grips with why there’s such a buzz about yourself.
Manziel’s statements came a few minutes after Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said the team expects better from Manziel, and it’s time for the quarterback to make news on the field rather than off -- an oddity of a statement in itself considering Pilot Flying J recently agreed to a $92 million fine in a fraud scam.
That being said, Haslam also pointed out that Pilot, of which he is CEO, had bent over backward to make amends in the investigation (including re-paying bilked customers $56 million, according to the Federal agreement), and to cooperate with federal investigators. He said the investigation showed people had made mistakes in his company “and it cost all of us dearly.”
“So we’re glad to get this chapter behind us and move on,” Haslam said, adding: “Today needs to be about the Browns.”
In a sort of similar way, Manziel is trying to do the same -- put the offseason of Internet photos and sprayed champagne behind him and concentrate on football. It’s why he was drafted in the first round, after all.
Saturday was the first training camp practice open to the fans and media, and though neither Brian Hoyer nor Manziel did a lot to distinguish himself, they both had moments and earned cheers from the crowd, which arrived early with many of them wearing No. 2 jerseys. Yes, some were recycled from the Tim Couch days.
Manziel has admitted repeatedly his biggest challenge is with the system. He believes in his physical abilities, but he has to go from what he called a simpler system at Texas A&M to a complex one in Cleveland.
“It’s not two short little plays anymore,” he said. “You have a lot to a play call. You have a lot to read. You have a lot of different things that weren’t asked of me at [Texas] A&M. You have to deal with protections. You have to deal with certain things.”
On his first throw in team drills, with a simulated rush because the Browns weren’t in pads, Manziel waited too long and threw incomplete. A few more incompletions followed. He later had to bring the team back to the huddle because he didn’t get the play called. He later rolled left and had nobody to throw to so the play stopped, and he followed that with a ball that was tipped at the line.
The longer practice went the more throws he completed, with the highlight a 20-yard cross to Miles Austin on the left sideline. If it’s good to end well, Manziel did, completing throws in the final team drill -- playing mostly with the second team.
Manziel admits that things will come fast now that training camp has started, and that he’s noticed a different intensity from the offseason. At the team meeting, a countdown already had started of days remaining until the opener (it’s 42 days).
“It’s getting real now,” Manziel said.
Ditto for Brian Hoyer, who also had some less-than-stellar moments. He started in position drills throwing high and wide to uncovered receivers, but rebounded to find Jordan Cameron past a linebacker. In team drills, there was another completion down the field to Cameron -- though safety Tashaun Gipson pulled off -- but another that was into coverage, tipped and intercepted by Gipson. A short dumpoff to the fullback couldn’t even get past the long arm of Barkevious Mingo. Hoyer also collided with Cameron as he dropped back to pass, resulting in a fumble.
"I thought they both did some real good things that highlighted what they do well and they both made some mistakes," coach Mike Pettine said. "Some of it’s not necessarily their fault—a receiver going the wrong way. I thought it was a solid start for both of them.”
It’s possible both quarterbacks were over-anxious for the first public practice, and no judgments should be drawn on one practice regardless. Hoyer is coming off a knee injury, Manziel is a rookie and both are learning a new system. They will need time.
But Pettine also made clear that at this point every snap, every rep and every throw matters.
“Why wouldn’t it?” he said.
At that point the team headed inside for lunch and an afternoon of meetings, study and learning from watching the tape. At this point, the floating swans and investigations are mere sideshow when it comes to the team, because now it’s about what happens on the field.
Day 1 was a start for the Browns and Manziel. As far as starts go, the best thing about it is there’s a Day 2.