HAMILTON, Ontario -- After making a two-year commitment to play for the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel is expected to serve as a backup to starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli for the entire upcoming season.
"I would say Jeremiah is doing very, very well," Tiger-Cats coach June Jones said after Wednesday's training camp practice. "Until something creates for me to take him out of there, I would say he'll be our starter for the whole year, hopefully, and win the Grey Cup."
Manziel is one of five quarterbacks in the Tiger-Cats' training camp, which began Sunday at McMaster University. In 12 games last season for Hamilton, Masoli completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,177 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Jones wanted to rest Masoli, who played in college at Oregon and Mississippi, for part of Wednesday's practice. That opened an opportunity for Manziel to take several snaps in a 12-on-12 drill, and he capitalized by completing 7 of 8 passes with a touchdown.
"Maybe sometimes it gets overstated that the running quarterbacks are going to do great up here," said Tiger-Cats receiver Luke Tasker, the son of longtime NFL special-teams ace Steve Tasker. "Jeremiah has done great up here and he's extremely mobile. I'm sure the [running ability] is going to be an asset for Johnny too, but true throwers make it up here as well. I saw Johnny went down the field on a no-huddle drive today and it was his arm that was really most impressive."
Tiger-Cats wide receiver Jalen Saunders was a first-hand witness when Manziel set a Cotton Bowl record with 516 total yards in Texas A&M's 41-13 win over Saunders' Oklahoma squad in January 2013. Saunders says he believes Manziel looks "a little better" than he did in college.
"He looks like himself out there," Saunders said. "He made some great plays, running around and what-not. He's been throwing. His arm looks live. ... He's older, more mature now. He has the pro experience from the NFL. He has some things he's picking up as we're going, but he looks great out here."
There was no celebration after Wednesday's touchdown pass from Manziel, who was known to make a "money" sign with his fingers after scores with the Aggies and on stage after being selected by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 2014 draft.
"I think he's probably grown up a lot and is in a different place in his life," Jones said. "He knows what he's got to do."
Manziel, 25, signed a two-year contract with the Tiger-Cats last week that will prevent him from returning to the NFL until it expires. The decision ended Manziel's efforts to return to the NFL this offseason after being released by the Browns in March 2016 following a two-year stint defined by several off-field issues and limited on-field success.
"This game takes you a lot of different places," Manziel told ESPN on Wednesday. "I never envisioned this being exactly how my career would go. But at the end of the day, this is where my life is right now and I have to make the most of that."
Jones, who coached the Atlanta Falcons from 1994 to '96, believes Manziel has adjusted well to playing football after not having participated in a professional game since 2015.
"Just watching him so far, I don't think he has any [issues] like that," Jones said. "I don't see it out here right now that he's been away. He looks like a guy who has come in who has played the game before. He's working at it and getting better."