BEREA: Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel isnít going to apologize for living life to the fullest, for partying the past five weekends or for having a larger-than-life persona, no matter how many Hall of Famers say he should check his off-field behavior, slow down and lower his profile.
Manziel was among the incoming AFC players who participated Friday morning in a youth football clinic at the Brownsí headquarters as part of the NFL Rookie Symposium. He threw passes to kids, ate lunch with them and signed countless autographs.
The 22nd overall pick in last monthís NFL Draft, Manziel also addressed the media for nearly 10 minutes in an interview granted by the league, not the Browns, who have said they wonít allow access to Johnny Football until July 25. Speaking to reporters for the first time since June 4, Manziel took a stand like he has before and defended his lifestyle, which has drawn criticism from hall of famers Emmitt Smith, Joe Montana and Warren Moon in recent days.
ďIím not going to change who I am for anybody,Ē Manziel said. ďIím growing up and continuing to learn from my mistakes and trying not to make the same ones over and over again. But am I going to live in a shell or am I just going to hide from everybody and not do anything? I donít think thatís the way I should live my life, and Iím not going to do it.
ďIím very committed to football. Iím committed to my job, but on the weekends, Iím going to enjoy my time off. I think we deserve it. We work hard here. Weíve worked hard since the draft. We worked hard to get drafted and put ourselves in a good position at the combine, even after that, working to stay in shape. So I am going to enjoy my time off. Iím very about football and very about my job, which doesnít get reported or wonít get reported, but I am going to enjoy my time off. Thatís, I think, what everybody else does, and thatís what I should do.Ē
Manziel, 21, began a streak of partying when he visited Las Vegas during Memorial Day weekend. Since then, he has been photographed drinking out of a large bottle of alcohol atop an inflatable swan and recorded on video while dropping an F-bomb as he pretended a large stack of money was a phone.
Manziel declined to address the viral ďmoney phoneĒ video.
ďThat was just in the past,Ē said Manziel, whoíll battle veteran Brian Hoyer for the Brownsí starting quarterback job this summer.
Manziel could barely keep his eyes open in the video, prompting many to wonder whether the Browns would tell him to calm down.
ESPNís Chris Mortensen reported on NFL Insiders Friday afternoon that the video ďdid not sit well withĒ Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. He instructed his staff to talk with Manziel about being more savvy as he deals with social media, and Manziel has been told to tone it down, according to the report.
Manziel, though, said the team hasnít reprimanded him.
ďNo, I donít think Iím doing anything wrong,Ē Manziel said. ďIím going out. Everybody goes out on the weekends and enjoys their life and lives their life. They donít have people that when they walk into a place pull out their phones and all they want to do is follow me around and record everything, so my situation is unique and different and now more than ever. Iíve seen that itís an every weekend thing wherever Iím at, whether itís here in Cleveland on a weekend or in Dallas or anywhere on a weekend, people want to record what Iím doing because they think itís a story. Everybody goes out and has fun. Everybody goes out and does that, and Iím not doing anything thatís putting myself in a harmful situation. Iím not doing anything thatís putting my team or jeopardizing what I do here throughout the week, or what Iím looking forward to doing this season.Ē
Manziel is aiming to beat Hoyer for the starting job, but he agreed with the statement coach Mike Pettine made this month about Hoyer being ďsecurely aheadĒ in the competition. Pettine, though, also said Hoyerís lead on Manziel wasnít insurmountable.
ďI think everything Coach Pettine said was spot on, that Brian obviously is ahead,Ē Manziel said. ďHeís been doing this a lot longer than I have and I am a rookie, so I have a lot of ground to catch up.
ďI want to play. Thatís what anybody wants to do thatís been a starter in the past and been playing. They want to play. Ö Will it be the end of the world if thatís not the case? No, I think you take it in stride and you learn a lot from your situation and you make the most of what situation youíre in. But to say I donít want to be the starter would be ridiculous. I absolutely want to start. Thatís my goal and hopefully I can achieve that.Ē
Some NFL greats believe Manziel would have a better chance of achieving his goal if he curbed his partying. In radio and TV interviews this week, Smith said Manziel has adopted ďa short career lifestyle,Ē Montana warned that Manziel shouldnít ďforget about footballĒ and Moon stressed that Manziel ďneeds to keep more of a low profile.Ē
ďThose are hall of famers, guys that Iíve grown up watching play and that I absolutely respect and who have been through this and know whatís going on,Ē Manziel said. ďJust because of whatís reported in the media or whatís getting out on social media doesnít mean thatís all Iím doing in my life. My weekends arenít what Iím doing seven days a week. Thatís two days out of the week and thereís five to six other days when Iím here at this building going through my playbook and working out just like every other rookie is, so nothing that Iím doing on the weekends is affecting my job. Nothing on the weekends that Iím doing is hopefully hurting any of my teammates in the locker room.Ē
However, Manziel pointed out that the nonstop questions about his behavior are wearing on his teammates.
ďI think theyíre tired of that,Ē Manziel said. ďTheyíre tired of the hype, which I am as well. So Iím sitting there seeing these things, and Iím tired of it as well. I want to wake up one week and not have my name going through something, and Iím working on getting better at that. But if I want to go home and spend time with my friends or go out and enjoy my weekends, I absolutely have the right to do that. Weíre going to get a little bit of a break here [before training camp], and Iím going to still continue to work out and do the things I need to do and hopefully not let that come between me and my teammates.Ē
Browns rookie running back Terrance West conceded that questions about Manziel are ďa distraction.Ē Browns rookie linebacker Christian Kirksey added, ďWe donít want to focus on anything outside of football.Ē
The chaos Manzielís celebrity can create is the primary reason Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles sold himself as the antithesis of Manziel in late February at the NFL Scouting Combine.
ďI think it was huge,Ē Bortles, the third overall pick, said of his pre-draft strategy. ďYouíre asking a guy to come in and lead your franchise and be the face of your franchise and go lead your team. It was how I was raised. Donít disgrace your family name, donít disgrace yourself or any organization that youíre a part of. So thatís kind of how I went about making all those decisions. I thought I was doing the right thing and trying to show my character in the best way I knew I could.
ďHeís definitely in a whole other light than Iím in. Heís way more under the microscope. Heís in a whole other world than Iím in. Heís way more of a celebrity than me. Heís got a lot of stuff to deal with that I donít have to. The times weíve been together, weíve had great conversations, and I definitely consider him a friend and somebody that I definitely enjoyed watching play college football. I hope to continue to watch him, wish him the best and look forward to seeing how everything turns out.Ē
Manziel, the Browns and their fans hope it all turns out fine.
ďIím in a great position and this is a dream come true for me every day that Iím getting to live in a great city with great teammates and great coaches and a great organization, so for me, Iím very happy,Ē Manziel said. ďThis is where I should be, and itís time to continue to get better and live my life and not let anything derail that.Ē
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.