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Browns limiting access to Johnny Manziel understandable -- for now

By George Thomas Published: May 15, 2014
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Cleveland Browns first round draft choice Johnny Manziel during a news conference to local media at the team's headquarters on Friday, in Berea. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal)

No one should be surprised that the Cleveland Browns are taking steps to tamp down the media brouhaha brewing over recently drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel by limiting access of the national media at this weekend’s rookie mini-camp.

For anyone paying attention the moves have been calculated beginning from the top with owner Jimmy Haslam offering this little nugget in a Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club appearance earlier this week:

“Mike Pettine says it very well: ‘Johnny, right now you're our back-up quarterback and you need to act as such.’”

And Haslam added his thoughts about the Manziel’s celebrity.

“I think there is a Johnny Football aura out there, and there's nothing wrong with that,” he said. “It is what it is. I think you will find a hard working serious guy that doesn't want to be a three year in the league flash and out who makes a lot of money on endorsements.”

Without a serviceable quarterback at the helm since their return, here’s guessing the Browns are doing everything in their power to ensure that Manziel gets the opportunity to realize the vast potential that he allegedly possesses. Anyone who’s heard Haslam’s speech will take away that he views him as being a huge part of the Browns future, but he hasn’t earned anything yet.

On that basis I understand completely what the Browns are attempting to do by limiting national media attendance at mini-camp.  There’s really nothing to see there given that it’s little more than workouts and meetings.  Even local media members only get to watch the first 15-20 minutes of practice before being ushered into Browns headquarters – not to mention the fact that there’s but one day of access in general.

Although to say no national media will be on hand is a bit disingenuous.  The Associated Press is at all Browns briefings as is ESPN because they have reporters based here.  Also Fox Sports Ohio has a writer who makes frequent appearances, also.

Still as cranking away at this gig for more than two decades now, I understand why some national members would be ticked off about this situation.  He’s Johnny Football.  Football Jesus.  Whatever you want to call him.

The primary criticism is difficult to miss as well:  “if they couldn’t handle the media onslaught, they shouldn’t have drafted him.”

That may be true, but here’s guessing that the Browns had little idea that Manziel would fall in their laps at No. 22.  One report had them still trying to trade with Washington for Kirk Cousins prior to the draft.  Here’s betting that had they successfully made the trade, Manziel and his larger-than-college-football alter ego would be elsewhere right now. 

You don’t plan for personalities – and that is what Manziel is until he enjoys some NFL success – in two weeks.  With athletes of his stature (LeBron James anyone?) locker room chats often turn into media scrums due to the number of bodies rubbing against one another as writers, bloggers and TV reporters and their cameramen fight for a spot to get the assorted recording gear in place to get the perfect shot or intelligible sound bite.

But he’s here and the Browns have to deal with them. However, in reading the statements from Haslam, general manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine, they plan to on their terms.   Is that bad?  Right now, if you’re a member of the national media, yes.

But it can’t and it won’t last. Reality comes this summer when the crowds descend upon Berea like they haven’t since the Browns returned in 1999.    That’s when the test begins and the Browns had best be prepared or their past public relations missteps will be quickly supplanted.

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