Mike Pettine acknowledges reality with Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel

BEREA, Ohio — Mike Pettine covered his bases with his quarterbacks on Monday.

During an informal gaggle with the Cleveland Browns beat writers, Pettine said Johnny Manziel could win the starting quarterback job in preseason.

If, however, Bill Clinton made well-known what "the definition of is is," then Pettine also might be defining the role of "could."

Yes, Manziel could start the opener. But he also could be the third quarterback on opening day.

Josh McCown is entrenched as the No. 1. He will get every opportunity to start. The Browns have gone out of their way to avoid a quarterback competition, and they're not going to create one now. Barring injury or a fall-on-his-face preseason, McCown will start the opener against the Jets.

But no coach ever rules out a player winning a job. If Manziel comes in, seizes the job with his play on the field and earns the starting spot, he should get it. By saying he won't guarantee McCown would start the opener, Pettine merely acknowledged the competition he wants to create.

Manziel has a very tough climb ahead of him to take the job, though.

And in fact, he has a challenge to retain the backup spot.

Connor Shaw ended the 2014 season impressing everyone with his play against the Ravens. Thaddeus Lewis has experience and did go 2-3 with an 81.0 rating in five starts with Buffalo in 2012.

Manziel reported with the other quarterbacks on Monday. Late in the afternoon, he emerged from the players side of the facility carrying a six-inch thick binder stocked with the team's offense.

Following Lewis, he trudged up the stairs where the coaches' offices are.

Training camp begins on the field on Thursday.