BEREA: Contrary to what Browns coach Mike Pettine believes, rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel insists he’s not frustrated with his status as a backup.
“I don’t necessarily think that’s the right word,” Manziel said Friday when told Pettine thought he could sense frustration from the former Heisman Trophy winner at Texas A&M University. “I think obviously coming from the situation I’ve been in the past couple years of every rep, every snap, every down of every game, coming into the situation that I’m in now is going to be a lot different for me. So I’m sure there are signs of this being a different situation for me, but I don’t feel frustrated. Obviously, being a competitor I want to play, but there is a difference.”
Brian Hoyer has maintained the starting quarterback job since the coaching staff chose him instead of Manziel a few days before the third preseason game. And with Hoyer controlling the offense, the Browns (4-3) have their best record since 2007 as they prepare to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6) at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Manziel, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, was bummed when he failed to secure the starting job. However, he has never publicly complained.
“I feel like I’m in the role that I need to be at this time,” Manziel said. “And, for me, obviously, I wasn’t where I needed to be throughout the earlier stages of being here, and now is my time to play catch up.”
Pettine said Wednesday he thought he could sense frustration from Manziel about not playing. He cited Manziel being “quiet” as one of the reasons.
Manziel explained he has a quiet side that gets lost in his Johnny Football persona.
“When I’m here in the building is a lot different for me than life outside away from the building a little bit,” Manziel said. “And I feel at times that people think I’m always going and always doing this, it’s not necessarily the case. It just always seems to get out that way and people seem to hear about it. But I feel I’m a pretty quiet, reserved guy here in the locker room.”
Staying in the background goes along with playing the role of a backup, and Manziel realizes it.
“No focus, no attention really needs to be placed on me,” Manziel said. “I’m doing little things to try and help this team get better throughout the week, but when it comes to Sundays, obviously, I’m not out there directly contributing. I think I’m just where I need to be, and kind of falling back a little bit is good for me and I like it.”
Cynics might claim Manziel is just trying to quell his party-boy image, but he said that’s not his primary motive.
“My mind doesn’t go directly to what my reputation is or what people think of me,” Manziel said. “It’s more not being a distraction to this team and what’s best for this locker room and these guys. The thing I’ve tried to do since I’ve gotten here is let these guys know it’s not all it’s chalked up to be and it’s not all the hype that it is. And I think if you ask guys here, they would say that that’s been the case. These are my teammates, these are the guys I care about day in and day out, and I don’t need to be putting any burden or any distraction or weight on this team.”
Although Manziel is willing to take a backseat for the sake of the team, his competitive fire is still burning. He has shown it at times by running around and making plays for the scout-team offense.
“I think I’m still extremely hungry,” Manziel said. “I still feel that obviously coming out training camp, I was disappointed. I wanted to play better. And at the same time, I am a rookie, and I can’t be too hard on myself. I remember thinking back to the days when I was learning the offense at A&M. It was frustrating. And it’s like that for everybody coming into a new system and a new place a long way away from home. So there’s a lot of things that were going on in my life at the time that now I’m settled in, I’m a lot more settled in, a lot more comfortable with everything that’s going on in the day-to-day operations.”
Frustration or no frustration, Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is confident Manziel has made sure he’s prepared for duty if necessary.
“Johnny is staying into it,” Shanahan said. “I don’t have to worry about that much. He knows at anytime you’re one injury away from playing, which is one play. I think Johnny’s no different than every other guy out here who’s not playing. I wouldn’t say he’s more frustrated or less frustrated. He’s the same as any other NFL athlete who is competitive, wants to be out there. He understands that he’s not [playing] and understands why, and I think Johnny’s been great. He’s been easy to deal with, and he’s been working and doing everything we ask.”
The Browns ruled out Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron for Sunday’s game. He suffered a concussion last weekend when he absorbed a shot from Oakland Raiders safety Brandian Ross as he caught a 21-yard pass with 7:31 left in the second quarter.
The NFL fined Ross $22,050 for the play because he hit a defenseless receiver in the head and neck area. The blow also drew a personal foul.
Cameron has suffered three documented concussions in less than two years.
A quick turnaround could increase the chances of Cameron missing the next two games. Four days after the Browns face the Bucs on Sunday, they’ll visit the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night.
“We’ll see about next week,” Pettine said. “... It’s always a concern when you have three fewer days.”
The roles of backup tight ends Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray will increase with Cameron out. The good news is the Browns defeated the New Orleans Saints in Week 2, when Cameron sat out with an injured shoulder.
“There are certain things that Jordan can do that he’s special at,” Shanahan said. “I think Jordan has a lot of talent, especially stretching the field and everything, but I do feel very good about Barnidge and Dray stepping in. They’re both good run blockers and they both can help us in the pass game. You don’t feature them as much and stuff that you would a Pro Bowl tight end, but as far as going versus zones and stuff and even some man-to-man situations, I think we’ll be all right. I have a lot of confidence in these guys.”
The Browns ruled out starting defensive lineman Phil Taylor (arthroscopic knee surgery Oct. 8) and listed backup wide receiver Rodney Smith (hamstring) as questionable. Defensive ends Desmond Bryant (wrist) and Billy Winn (quadriceps), safety Jim Leonhard (ankle), outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (shoulder), nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin (ankle) and cornerback K’Waun Williams (shoulder/neck) are probable.
The Bucs ruled out returner and wide receiver Trindon Holliday (hamstring) and linebacker Brandon Magee (knee). Offensive tackle Anthony Collins (foot) and running back Doug Martin (ankle) are doubtful. Defensive end Michael Johnson (hand) is questionable, and center Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee) and wide receiver Vincent Jackson (rib) are probable.
Now that Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson leads the NFL with five interceptions this season, he’s determined to maintain the top spot.
“It’s a prideful thing now,” Gipson said. “Every Sunday I go out there, I think that you always want to be the best at whatever you do, and I think that just having yourself in such a good position in such a serious category, it’s a blessing. So each and every game I want to at least try to get my hands on one. How realistic is that? I don’t know. It’s been working for me so far. Just being out there, just being competitive, I would like to lead the National Football League in interceptions. I figure like, why not?”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.