<
>

June Jones: QB Johnny Manziel 'growing up,' should be in NFL

play
Manziel: CFL not just a 'pit stop' (0:59)

Johnny Manziel says he's committed to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the long haul and is not taking anything for granted. (0:59)

Johnny Manziel didn't play in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' season opener against Calgary, but coach June Jones says the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner should be playing in the NFL.

"I've been pleasantly surprised the last three weeks what a good teammate he is, how smart he is, how he sees the game,'' Jones told ESPN.com. "He should be playing in the National Football League, and I believe he will when he gets through with us.''

The Cleveland Browns released Manziel in March 2016, two years after the former Texas A&M star was the No. 22 pick of the NFL draft. Manziel's career with the Browns was marred by off-the-field issues that ultimately led to two stints in rehab for alcohol and drugs.

After spending two years out of football, Manziel in May signed a two-year deal with Hamilton of the Canadian Football League to rebuild his career. The 25-year-old spent the opener on the sideline playing behind Jeremiah Masoli, who completed 25 of 36 pass attempts for 344 yards and an interception during the 28-14 loss.

Jones said in late May that Manziel had no chance to overtake Masoli as the starter before the June 16 opener.

But Jones was impressed enough with Manziel's performance -- 12-for-20 for 88 yards and 1 touchdown -- in the preseason finale against Montreal and everything he has seen off the field to predict a successful comeback to the NFL.

"It'll take two years,'' Jones said. "They're [NFL executives, coaches] waiting to see that he's taken care of his off-the-field problems.''

From what Jones has seen so far, Manziel is on the right path.

"He's humble,'' he said. "He's growing up every day.''

Jones made the comments during an interview about Carolina Panthers backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Jones helped Gilbert rebuild his confidence in college after Gilbert transferred from Texas to Southern Methodist University, where Jones coached from 2008 to 2014.

While Jones acknowledged Manziel doesn't lack for confidence "at all,'' he admits there is work to be done. But he expects Manziel to one day compete in the NFL, just like Gilbert -- the leading candidate to back up 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton -- is now.

"We have a huge project,'' Jones said of Manziel. "We're going to get that done, too.''