He’s back. He now has a long journey ahead of him if he is to be the franchise quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.
Quarterback Johnny Manziel has returned to Cleveland, and he took part in a voluntary workout with other Browns teammates on Monday. Manziel entered rehab, reportedly because of issues regarding alcohol dependency, on January 28, and he remained in treatment up through the first couple of weeks of April. That decision followed what was a disastrous National Football League season for Manziel, during which the former “Johnny Football” did not, by his own admissions, take his duties as a member of the Browns seriously.
While Manziel has not publicly spoken to the media outside of a statement that he released via the official Browns website last week, he has attended several sporting events. He and his girlfriend were in the front row for a Texas Rangers Major League Baseball game, he was given a jersey with his name on it by the Dallas Mavericks, and he was in the front row for the first Cleveland Cavaliers playoff game in five years.
It was his appearance at the Cavs game that has rubbed some fans and analysts the wrong way for reasons that make little sense. Manziel was one of several Browns players who watched LeBron James and company take the court for the Cavs on Sunday, and he was in the background for the bulk of the nationally televised contest. Some have voiced their “hot takes” on Manziel being at the game as a sign that he has not changed his personal life following his rehab stint.
Apparently Manziel is now supposed to lock himself up in his home when he is not working out with the Browns.
Manziel’s fall from grace in 2014 was harsh, it was public and it led to him voluntarily entering rehab and then remaining in that program for months. Believed by many within a fan base that has had little to celebrate over the past 50 years to be the savior that Cleveland has needed, Manziel joined the Browns on the first evening of the 2014 NFL Draft. His partying ways over the summer months earned him headlines and criticism, and Manziel being unable to beat out journeyman veteran Brian Hoyer for the starting quarterback job led some to wonder where the rookie’s head was last August.
The Browns jumped out to a winning record last fall, in a way in spite of Hoyer’s lackluster play (Hoyer was, at a point in November, one of the least-accurate starting QBs in the NFL). Manziel was given the starting gig for the Week 15 Browns showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals and it did not go well. Manziel struggled from the opening series, and the Browns were routed 30-0 in a game that saw then-Cleveland offensive coordinator utilize a peculiar set of play calls that did his quarterback little favors.
Manziel was injured and lost for the season in the Week 16 contest involving the Browns and the Carolina Panthers. He was late for the team bus before the final game of the regular season, and that infraction got Manziel banned to the locker room for that contest.
Rehab may prove to be the easy part of this process for Manziel, who now has to get back into football shape while at the same time reengaging himself with teammates, some of whom may have lost trust in and respect for the college football sensation who was a NFL flop last year. Manziel needs to learn a new offensive playbook, and he has to make improvements to his game. He still has to overcome all of the hurdles that stand in the way of undersized quarterbacks becoming successful in the NFL.
He also has to defeat personal demons that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
As was expected, Manziel did not speak with any media following Monday’s workout session. Thus, day one of the Manziel Redemption Tour came and went without much fanfare. Fans may get another look at Manziel on Tuesday night when he and other members of the Browns watch the Cavs once again host the Boston Celtics.
Maybe Manziel should get himself a suite for that match-up.
Zac has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and National Football League for a variety of websites since 2006. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.