Browns rookie Johnny Manziel expressed regret about some of his recent off-field behavior and vowed to fully commit to football as he enters his first NFL training camp and resumes his competition against veteran Brian Hoyer for the starting quarterback job.
"I made some rookie mistakes," Manziel, the 22nd overall pick in this year's draft, said today during a news conference. "There's some things I wish could've gone back and done a little differently, but [I'm] continuing to move forward and try and represent this organization and this team in a positive manner, in a positive light. [I'm] just very excited to be back in camp, and it's football 24-7. It's what I love doing. It's what I live for, and it's what my job is. So for me, I'm very excited to be back and can't wait to get this thing underway."
Manziel has traveled across the country and partied virtually every week since late May. The Browns downplayed his antics for a while, but things eventually reached a boiling point, compelling coach Mike Pettine and General Manager Ray Farmer to broach the subject with Manziel and express their concerns.
The Browns were startled when a photograph of Manziel rolling money in a bathroom surfaced online earlier this month. Manziel revealed not only Pettine, but also Farmer specifically discussed the photo with him.
"I've talked about that with Coach Pettine," Manziel said. "I've talked about it with Farmer and the people I needed to talk about that with. Moving forward, they're good with everything. I've told them everything that I need to, and everything's been good."
Manziel declined to elaborate on the topic, but his conversations with Pettine and Farmer were not limited to the money-rolling photo.
"Me and Coach Pettine and Ray Farmer have really talked about a lot of things that have transpired over the course of the offseason," Manziel said. "For me my main thing is people within this building, my teammates, coaching staff, the higher-ups in this organization, we've all been on the same page. We've all been good and are very eager to be moving forward."
Pettine said Hoyer has an advantage in the quarterback derby and acknowledged it'll be difficult for Manziel to surpass him during camp. The rookie NFL head coach revealed Hoyer would take the reps with the first-team offense for the first few practice of camp while Manziel works with the second unit. The coaches will then meet again and decide how the reps should be divided based on how the competition goes.
When the Browns take the field for the first full-squad practice of camp Saturday morning, Hoyer will play the role of the starter. He's confident he'll maintain his lead against Manziel and start the Sept. 7 season opener at Pittsburgh.
"I want the best quarterback to play," said Hoyer, a North Olmsted native and St. Ignatius High School graduate who led the Browns to back-to-back wins last season before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament Oct. 3. "All you can ask for is the opportunity to be that guy. I just have to take advantage of the opportunity I have.
"I’m confident I am that guy, but in the same sense I know if it comes down to the fact Johnny does beat me out, I will have given everything I can and he will have totally earned it. That’s what you want. All I ask is the opportunity and a chance to earn the job, and that’s what I’ve been given. For me it’s about going out every day and proving I can be that guy I believe I am.”
Pettine also said he'll name a starting quarterback before the third preseason game Aug. 23 against the St. Louis Rams. Still, Manziel believes there is enough time for him to win the job. He also insisted he doesn't think of himself as an underdog.
"Coach Pettine and the staff here has called this an open competition," Manziel said, "and I believe that it is."
Manziel doesn't think the "rookie mistakes" he admitted to making off the field this season have hurt him in the competition.
"I don't believe so," Manziel said. "I think there are definitely things moving forward to help better act as a professional. At the same time, I'm still learning how to do that. I'm still getting used to this role, still getting used to this league, still getting used to being a pro football player. I'm not in college anymore. There's things I need to do better, and that's just part of being a professional. Hopefully with time and going through this season and as time goes on, I'll get better at doing that."
Although Manziel conceded he needs to better represent the organization when he hits the town, he made it clear he doesn't feel guilty about going out. The former Heisman Trophy winner nicknamed Johnny Football might want to take back some of his actions, but he's not going to apologize for everything he's done this offseason.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with me going out and having a nightlife and having a social life," Manziel said. "I mean I am 21 years old, and I do like going out. It was the offseason. It's free time for us and if I want to go out and hang out with my friends or go to nightclubs and do things like that, I think that's within my rights to be doing that and I think there's other guys throughout the league that are doing that. I'm not trying to compare myself to anybody else, but I think that's within my rights to be doing that."
Now the Browns have their eyes on Manziel more than ever, and they're watching to see where he'll draw the line.