Let The Battle Begin: Hoyer, Manziel start Browns’ quarterback competition

Published 12:56 am Thursday, May 22, 2014

BEREA (AP) — Unlike most Clevelanders, Brian Hoyer didn’t jump up and down or cheer when he heard the Browns drafted Johnny Manziel.

Hoyer shrugged and got ready to fight for his job.

“It was almost a sense of relief when he was drafted,” he said, “because I knew exactly right then and there what it was going to be.”

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It’s going to be a quarterback battle unlike anything Cleveland has seen before.

Hoyer, the hometown kid and incumbent starter, and Manziel — the college football superstar with the larger-than-life persona, catchy nickname and Heisman Trophy — were on the field together Wednesday, the second day of organized team activities.

With roughly 60 media members lining the fields and focused on the two QBs’ every move, Hoyer and Manziel went through passing drills and took turns behind center in a competition expected to last several months.

Afterward, Hoyer said he and Manziel are developing a “working relationship” and joked the pair are getting along splendidly.

“I was thinking about sending him a birthday card,” Hoyer quipped.

Hoyer, though, understands what under first-year coach Mike Pettine meant about the quarterback competition being somewhat heated.

“I totally get it,” he said. “I don’t think we’re in there not being friendly. But when you’re gunning for the same job, there is a little bit of an edge to it.”

The Browns are expecting Manziel to challenge Hoyer, who is coming off right knee surgery. The team has made it clear that Hoyer is the starter and will remain so unless Manziel can beat him out.

This is nothing new to Hoyer, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament last season. Hoyer has been battling for a job since he joined the NFL, only this time he’s the one that others are gunning for.

“It does feel different because as of right now I’m the top guy, and before I’ve always been coming from behind,” Hoyer said. “My mentality has never really changed.”

Manziel did not speak to reporters after practice, but several Browns players were asked about their famous new teammate, the scrambling magician known as Johnny Football. The former Texas A&M star fell in the first round before Cleveland traded up to take him with the No. 22 overall pick.

So far, Manziel has kept his head buried in his playbook.

“Johnny has done a good job of being a rookie, keeping his mouth shut,” Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. “Rookies are supposed to be seen and not heard, which is what he’s done.”

Hoyer waited four seasons for his chance to start. After spending three years in New England as Tom Brady’s backup, he made one start in Arizona before he bounced around and signed as a free agent with Cleveland last May.

Hoyer was prepared for the Browns to draft a quarterback. He never expected to be handed anything, and not once did he consider asking for a trade.

“No, never,” he said. “I knew, even going back to last summer, that this was the place that I wanted to be, and it ended up working out and I got back here, and then I got a chance to play. This is my hometown. This is where my family’s from. This is where I want to make a difference. I’ll never shy away from competition, and it’s something I had prepared myself for.”

Hoyer and Manziel each had good moments during the nearly two-hour workout, which Pettine kept open to the media after limiting access for last week’s rookie minicamp.

Hoyer, wearing a knee brace but moving without any problems, made the day’s best pass, completing a long touchdown to wide receiver Conner Vernon.

Manziel’s final pass got batted down, but he showed some of the moves that made him a household name.

Still, he’s got work to do.

“It’s just like any other rookie, that he’s just inconsistent,” Pettine said. “A lot of it’s the mental part of it. He’s more worrying about getting the formation right, making sure the motion’s correct and he’s got the cadence. Then he’s got to worry about where guys are. Once all that stuff becomes second nature a little bit, he’ll be a lot more comfortable.

“He flashed some things that made him kind of who he is, the ability to make plays on his feet.”

NOTES: Pro Bowl WR Josh Gordon practiced as he awaits a possible league suspension. Gordon declined comment. … WR Miles Austin said he called former Browns QB Bernie Kosar to ask for permission to wear No. 19. “I never wanted to step on anyone’s toes,” Austin said. “I thought it was the right thing to do.” … Pettine would not discuss injuries to several players, including starting DT Ahtyba Rubin, who was not on the field. … OG Garrett Gilkey exchanged a few punches with rookie DT Calvin Barnett, whose helmet was ripped off during the fracas.


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