AURORA: Browns left tackle Joe Thomas went hunting during the NFL Draft. He said he knew the Browns made a splash when his phone blew up with text messages.
They created the buzz on Thomas’ phone and throughout the football world by making a move to draft former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Browns players are well aware of Manziel’s credentials, but caution that he shouldn’t expect to be given the job currently occupied by Brian Hoyer, a sentiment reiterated by their owner later in the day.
“It will be fun to see how his game transitions to the NFL,” Thomas said prior to hitting the course at the Cleveland Browns Foundation’s annual golf outing at Barrington Golf Club.
Tight end Jordan Cameron said the Browns drafted players — including Manziel — who can compete now, and that’s a good thing.
“It’s going to be a battle and both of those guys are extremely competitive,” he said. “They both want to play. I don’t know Johnny personally, so I can’t speak for him. I know Brian and he’s not just going to hand the thing over.”
Center Alex Mack agreed.
“I think good ol’ Johnny Football is going to be a great addition to Cleveland,” he said. “I don’t know who the starter is going to be though.”
They are aware that with Manziel comes celebrity and notoriety. In some cases, that has its advantages.
“I think it will help sell tickets, which would make a lot of people smile in the building, so that’s a good thing,” Thomas said. “Obviously everyone wishes they could have no media coverage and never have anyone at practice.”
Kidding aside, his future teammates expect it will be fine.
“I think he’s handled himself well in college and had a successful career and I think he knows what he’s doing,” Mack said of Manziel.
And if he doesn’t, he will have help.
“We have a plan for that. We know it will bring a lot of attention,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said. “We’ll be in the business of controlling what we can control.”
Lost in what has quickly become Manzielmania is the fact that the Browns drafted another highly touted player in the first round, 6-foot, 201-pound cornerback Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State, to play opposite Joe Haden.
“The guy’s just a blazer. He’s got smoking speed. He’s a competitor,” defensive lineman Billy Winn said.
On Josh Gordon
Browns players were cautious in their statements regarding wide receiver Josh Gordon.
ESPN reported Friday night that Gordon, who caught 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns, faces a season-long ban for a positive drug test.
“I don’t really know what the situation is going to be, but if he’s not there, it’s going to be really tough,” Cameron said. “He’s one of the best players in the league. [But] we’ll find a way to fill that void. We’ve got [offensive coordinator] Kyle Shanahan. He’ll put guys in different situations to make this offense go.”
The reality is that not much can be done until the NFL makes a determination on Gordon’s status, which the front office knew before the draft, according to reports.
“There’s nothing that we can do as players but stand behind him,” linebacker Craig Robertson said.
Even with Gordon in limbo, the Browns passed on taking a wide receiver in the draft.
“The situation didn’t call for panic,” Pettine said. “That’s something that we weren’t going to do. The league obviously prohibits me from speaking on that specifically but, just in general, I know that I agree with [General Manager] Ray [Farmer] 1,000 percent, we have to build this team so that no one player drives the ship.”
Browns release five
It was a short stay. The Browns released recently signed quarterback Vince Young, along with quarterback Alex Tanney. The duo became expendable with the drafting of Johnny Manziel. The team also released running back Fozzy Whitaker, defensive back Brandon Hughes and defensive lineman Brian Sanford.
Browns sign 11
Given the Gordon situation, it’s clear that wide receiver is a position of need for the Browns, especially considering they went the entire draft without selecting one. They signed four undrafted free agents to make up for a perceived problem at that spot, and maybe there’s a diamond in the rough.
“There’s so many late bloomers out there,” Pettine said. “Guys that went to small schools or guys whose college situations weren’t ideal for them to be the big name. That’s a big part of coaching, when you can take a player that’s potentially coming in on the low end of the roster, low end of the salary part of it, and you can get production out of him.”
The Browns signed Ray Agnew (FB), Southern Illinois; Calvin Barnett (DL), Oklahoma State; Darwin Cook (DB), West Virginia; Isaiah Crowell (RB), Alabama State; Anthony Dima (OL), Massachusetts; Chandler Jones (WR), San Jose State; Jonathan Krause (WR), Vanderbilt; Michael Phillip (OL), Oregon State; Connor Shaw (QB), South Carolina; Kenny Shaw (WR), Florida State; Willie Snead (WR), Ball State.
Of the four receivers on the list, Jones, who caught 50 or more passes in each of his four college years, might be that diamond.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.