Pettine defends Manziel

Published 2:28 am Wednesday, June 3, 2015

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns coach Mike Pettine is defending quarterback Johnny Manziel, saying he’s unhappy with outside chatter about Manziel’s relationship with the team following a rehab stay and a minor confrontation with a fan.

Pettine said Tuesday he’s not concerned after the former college star threw a water bottle at a heckler during a PGA Tour golf tournament in Texas.

“I have the details on what happened and, in my mind, it’s a non-story,” Pettine said. “I’m not concerned and I don’t see it as a distraction.”

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“Under the right set of circumstances, I’m sure everyone standing here would get to the point where they would do something along those lines,” Pettine said.

Manziel, 22, declined to speak with the media after a two-hour practice. He hasn’t spoken with reporters since the day after last season’s finale in Baltimore.

No arrests were made or charges filed in the confrontation, but the incident amplified speculation about Manziel’s role that has circulated since Manziel spent 10 weeks in a rehab facility and the team signed Josh McCown as a starting quarterback.

Pettine said he takes issue with the rumors because they can potentially divide the staff and players.

“We all feel good about where Johnny is right now,” he said. “He wants everything to be perfect, he wants it to be done right, and he wants to do it the way we’re coaching him to do it, so he’s probably been the hardest guy on himself.”

Manziel appeared in five games as a rookie, making two starts. The Texas A&M product also rushed for one touchdown while primarily backing up Brian Hoyer.

“Johnny Football” has been a tabloid regular since the Browns made him the No. 22 overall selection in the 2014 draft, repeatedly photographed while partying in Las Vegas. In November, he was involved in an altercation at a downtown Cleveland hotel that he lived in.

Manziel checked into a Pennsylvania rehabilitation facility that specializes in substance abuse in January, but has attended all Browns activities since checking out in mid-April. He also sat courtside for a Cleveland Cavaliers NBA playoff game.

“Usually with Johnny, people just try to get a negative reaction when we’re walking around Cleveland,” said Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, one of Manziel’s closest friends on the team.

“When we’re leaving a little restaurant, we’re walking back to valet and you just hear, ‘How was rehab?’ We’re just chilling, and it’s the negativity that people are trying to get a reaction out of him, and it’s upsetting,” Haden said.

The two-time Pro Bowler said he has encouraged Manziel to hire private security, as he has done, to handle difficult situations. He has resisted thus far, but Haden hopes he changes his mind.

“I think he has refocused on football, and understands this is his job and he has to be all the way in,” Haden said. “I think these (off-field situations) are overblown. That’s too bad because I like what he’s showing us out here on the field.”