All eyes on Manziel at Browns’ practice

Published 12:36 am Wednesday, May 27, 2015

BEREA (AP) — Except for sporting a tighter haircut under his orange helmet, Johnny Manziel looked pretty much the same.

He scrambled from defenders and zipped passes. He talked to his coaches after plays, and joked around with Browns teammates during water breaks.

Manziel is back on the football field, where he built his Johnny Football reputation and where he must now prove he belongs. His comeback — day-to-day — is ongoing.

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For the first time since a highly publicized, 10-week stay at a rehab facility in Pennsylvania this winter, Manziel practiced in front of journalists on Tuesday as the Browns moved into the next phase of their offseason program.

The 22-year-old, who played poorly in two starts last season and then sought treatment for an unspecified issue, did not speak with reporters afterward.

However, several of his teammates gave glowing reports on Manziel. They’ve been impressed with his determination to change a party-boy image following a bad rookie year.

“He understands the mistakes that he’s made, so he’s taken the proper steps to try to keep himself out of trouble,” Browns safety Donte Whitner said. “Now he understands how serious it is. He’ll be all right.”

The Browns can only hope so. They invested a first-round draft pick on the former Heisman Trophy winner and have publicly stated they still believe he can develop into a top-tier NFL starter. Time will tell, but Manziel is at least showing early signs of an attitude change.

Whitner said when he arrives or leaves Browns headquarters, Manziel’s car is usually in the parking lot.

“If you’re here in the morning, you see who has those first couple parking spots, you know who was here before everybody else,” he said. “So he’s taken the steps that it takes to be a good quarterback.”

Manziel had a few nice moments during 11-on-11 drills.

He threaded a strong pass over the middle to tight end Rob Housler on one play, and rolled right and slipped a side-armed pass for a completion to wide receiver Darius Jennings. Manziel, who will enter training camp as Josh McCown’s backup, also forced a short throw that was intercepted by K’Waun Williams and returned for a touchdown.

Browns coach Mike Pettine did not grade any of Manziel’s snaps, but said he’s been “very engaged in meetings.”

As for Manziel’s personality, Pettine said the popular QB hasn’t changed.

“I just think he’s probably a little bit more focused now,” Pettine said. “But it’s something that he knows and he has said, he’ll have to prove it every day.”

McCown has seen it. The 13-year veteran has only been teammates with Manziel for a short time, but said Manziel just needs to keep stacking up good days.

“His position is very demanding. It’s demanding of a lot of things — emotionally, your time and effort — and I think he’s understanding that and he’s embracing that, and that’s the key,” McCown said.


NOTES: Browns center Alex Mack, who had his 2014 season ended after five games by a broken left leg, would not comment on his future beyond 2015. Mack can opt out of his contract following this season. “Let’s play the games, let’s see how the season goes, I’m really not interested in talking about that until after the season,” he said. … Rookie RB Duke Johnson and LB Craig Robertson had travel issues and were not at practice. … LB Barkevious Mingo was limited following offseason shoulder surgery. … Top draft pick, NT Danny Shelton, can’t work out with the Browns until after Washington’s academic year ends next month.