NFL Justified In Further Investigating Johnny Manziel Incident With Girlfriend

Should Manziel be placed on exempt list? (1:56)

First Take's Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith share their opinions on USA Today's Christine Brennan's thoughts on Browns QB Johnny Manziel. (1:56)

There are some troubling facts in the Johnny Manziel case. Troubling enough that the NFL is right to open an investigation into what happened on Oct. 12, when several 911 calls prompted a response from the Avon Police Department to Manziel's location on the side of a road in the Cleveland suburb.

Currently, the NFL has a staff that includes former prosecutors looking at the police report and trying to ascertain whether there is enough substance to warrant placing Manziel on the commissioner's exempt list, which is essentially a form of paid leave. The league wants to be thorough, without negatively impacting a player's reputation where it isn't deserved. With this police report, their job may be a little harder.

Cleveland's backup quarterback wasn't charged, and his girlfriend, Colleen Crowley, declined to press charges. But there are several disturbing parts to the police report and process over an argument that allegedly began when he had her phone on his lap and she threw his wallet out of the car.

Despite admitting he had been drinking, Manziel was never asked to take a blood-alcohol level test. The author of the report notes he detected the smell of alcohol on Manziel's breath, but since Manziel did not exhibit signs of drunkenness, he was not given an objective test.

"The smell of alcohol coupled with reports of erratic behavior make the decision not to proceed with blood testing blood-alcohol level concerning," said Omar Manejwala, addiction specialist and author of "Craving: Why We Can't Seem to Get Enough."

Some people might appear more functional when they have been drinking, which is why an objective measure is needed. Manejwala said people generally have an incentive to underreport the number of drinks they have consumed when asked by an officer during a traffic stop.

Crowley, who according to witnesses and police officers was visibly drunk, said Manziel hit her -- something audible in the police vehicle's dash cam video. Yet, she immediately asked the officer not to convey it, saying, "Please don't." She had an abrasion on her arm, and one witness said she saw Manziel with his arm and elbow on her neck.

"It looked to me like she was in some danger," said Kim Gandy, the president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. "I know it's hard for police when a victim said she doesn't want to press charges, but you have eyewitnesses and the girlfriend said he hit her head on the glass. She has abrasions. You have multiple calls to 911 and people who stayed with the car. People don't usually do that unless they're concerned.

"So it seems to me that this is another case of special treatment for football players. If he'd been a random African-American guy, he'd have been in jail."

Later, Crowley gave conflicting statements. Yet, as experts on interpersonal violence can attest, this does not mean the initial statement was incorrect. Janay Palmer didn't want to press charges against Ray Rice, but it doesn't mean that an act of violence didn't occur. Crowley's statements that she had been hit -- with physical evidence -- were not given the same weight that Manziel's statements were.

Instead, the police wrote a narrative that almost made Manziel appear to be the hero in the scenario. He saved a drunken Crowley from leaping out of a moving car, even if he had to hurt her in the process. Is that what happened? Perhaps, but maybe not. And the assumptions that law enforcement made -- that a driver was being truthful about the amount he drank, for example -- keep the case from advancing to a prosecutor or court.

Once the narrative was established, the police offered Crowley a ride home. She declined, but she initially didn't want to go home with Manziel, either. Crowley asked if she could walk home, but the officers said she couldn't. Then they let her get back in the car with Manziel and drive home.

"Why would they let him drive away with the person whose head he hit against the glass?" Gandy asked. "Police officers who've had training in domestic violence treat things differently."

Later, officers were able to interview another witness, Lauren Clark, who said Manziel passed her on the left side berm at an estimated 90 mph and had his elbow and arm against Crowley's neck. This account didn't fit so neatly with the defined narrative, not that officers didn't try.

According to the police report, "Ms. Clark was asked if she viewed the actions as aggressive by the male in attempts to harm the female or if they were actions used to keep the occupant from exiting a moving car. Ms. Clark was not sure but did state the male's actions kept the female from exiting the moving car."

Gandy notes Manziel could have been arrested for erratic driving, given the multiple calls to 911.

As Christine Brennan wrote in USA Today, this information could be enough for the NFL to put Manziel on the commissioner's exempt list, while New York Daily News columnist Shaun King examined the issue of race and privilege in the context of Manziel's stop.

Browns coach Mike Pettine expressed sympathy for Manziel, who spent 73 days in a rehabilitation facility during the offseason for unspecified personal issues.

"I think one of the positives in his life is football," Pettine said. "To give him an outlet. It's hard for me to speak on not just him, but any player outside the building, because I'm not with him. But as his coach, he's been an A-plus when he's here."

The NFL is trying to piece together the facts from what can be discerned from the police report on Manziel's actions on Oct. 12. Problematic incidents like this are really why the league was compelled to put together a unit to investigate in the first place. The balance is to make sure a player is protected from unfounded charges, even as it tries to provide consequences for violent actions.

Clearly, it's not an easy job.