Manziel still in rehab; Browns sign Hartline

Published 2:30 am Tuesday, March 10, 2015

BEREA (AP) — Johnny Manziel’s commitment to fixing his personal life has the Browns feeling positive about his future as a quarterback.

Browns coach Mike Pettine confirmed Monday that Manziel, whose disastrous rookie season in Cleveland was followed by him seeking help for an undisclosed issue, remains in a rehab treatment facility. Manziel entered a private facility in Ohio on Jan. 28, and Pettine said there is not a specific date for the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner to be released.

Pettine, appearing at the Cleveland Auto Show, was asked if he viewed Manziel’s lengthier stay as a good sign.

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“Sure,” he said. “It’s something that he was very resolute that needed to get done.”

Pettine said the team has had some communication with Manziel, who spent most of the season as Brian Hoyer’s backup before making two rather forgettable starts. Manziel led the Browns to just three points in six quarters as a starter and appeared overwhelmed by the speed of the pro game.

Pettine reiterated that the Browns are solely concerned about Manziel getting well.

“It’s more important the personal stuff now, football is an afterthought,” Pettine said, “so we’re just giving him his privacy and do what he has to do.”

Pettine believes that when Manziel returns, he will be a better player simply because the Browns have added Kevin O’Connell and John DeFilippo to their coaching staff. O’Connell, the team’s new quarterbacks coach, worked with Manziel before the 2014 draft and DeFilippo, who replaces Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator, has worked extensively with young QBs.

“Well, I just think in hiring Kevin O’Connell, hiring John DeFilippo, and knowing what those guys bring to the table from a quarterback standpoint that when Johnny is back, I’m very confident that he’ll be better,” Pettine said. “Just knowing how those guys coach that position and what they’re going to ask of not just him but all the quarterbacks in the room.”

As the Browns wait for Manziel, Pettine said he would have no problem with newly signed veteran quarterback Josh McCown as his starter next season. McCown went 1-10 as a starter in 2014 for Tampa Bay.

“I’d be comfortable, I would,” Pettine said. “He’s proven he can start in this league. I’m not going to stand here and announce that’s the situation. We’ll see what our roster looks like when we get to September. But here’s a guy who has played quality minutes in this league and brings a lot to our organization on and off the field.”

With teams set to sign free agents as of Tuesday at 4 p.m., Pettine did not reveal any of the Browns’ plans in free agency other than to say the team would be smart with its money.

“It’s right player, right price,” Pettine said.

The Browns believe they got both in wide receiver Brian Hartline, who agreed to terms on a two-year, $6 million contract. Hartline was released last month after six seasons by Miami and now the Ohio native is coming home to help the Browns, who were desperate for a quality wide receiver after former All-Pro Josh Gordon was suspended by the NFL for one year.

The 28-year-old Hartline had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2012 and 2013 before gaining just 474 last season on 39 catches.

Pettine said the team remains hopeful it can re-sign some of its unrestricted free agents, including versatile cornerback Buster Skrine, who has drawn interest from several teams. Pettine would like to hang on to Skrine — if possible.

“Bus is a guy that really came on for us, and it’s one of those things where he could go out and get blown away in the market,” Pettine said. “We have parameters for where we are, you always set thresholds for players. We certainly feel that Bus is the right player, but for us it certainly also has to be the right price.”

The Browns also tendered a second-round qualifying offer for Pro Bowl safety Tashaun Gipson. The team has discussed signing Gipson, who had six interceptions last season despite missing the final five games with a knee injury, to a long-term deal. But that hasn’t worked out, and the team will risk exposing him on the open market.

Cleveland can match any offer made to Gipson, but his price could soar in a weak class of safeties. If the Browns let Gipson go, they will receive a second-round pick as compensation.

The Browns also tendered offers to linebacker Craig Robertson, special-teams dynamo Johnson Bademosi and nose tackle Ishmaa’ily Kitchen. They re-signed offensive lineman Ryan Seymour.

Pettine said the Browns remain in play for pass-rush specialist Trent Cole, who spent two days visiting the team.


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