BEREA — On the eve of his first NFL training camp, which will feature him trying to come from behind to pass Brian Hoyer in a highly anticipated quarterback competition, Johnny Manziel admitted to taking missteps off the field. But he downplayed the mistakes, again defended his right to party and tried to quickly shift the focus to football.
“At the end of the day, I’ve made some rookie mistakes,” Manziel said in an opening statement before taking questions Friday night. “There’s some things that I wish I could’ve gone back and done a little differently, but I’m continuing to move forward and trying to represent this organization in a positive manner and a positive light, so just very excited to be back in camp and it’s football 24/7 and that’s what I love doing.
“That’s what I live for and it’s my job, so for me, I’m very excited to be back and can’t wait to get this under way.”
Manziel has spent much of his free time since being the No. 22 pick in May partying at exotic locales. The good times have been chronicled on social media, including a picture of him with a rolled-up dollar bill in a bathroom. The picture wasn’t well-received in the Browns organization, and coach Mike Pettine called Manziel while on vacation.
“I’ve talked about that with Coach Pettine, I’ve talked about it with (general manager) Ray Farmer and the people I need to talk about that with,” said Manziel, who wouldn’t elaborate on the picture. “And moving forward, they’re good with everything, and I’ve told them everything that I need to and everything’s been good.
“Me and Coach Pettine and Ray Farmer have really talked about a lot of things that have transpired over the course of the offseason. For me, my main thing is, people within this building, my teammates, the coaching staff, the higher-ups in this organization, we’ve all been on the same page, we’ve all been good and very eager to be moving forward.”
While Manziel was living it up with the rich and famous, Hoyer was hunkered down at the team facility. Except for two short vacations, he said he was in the building four days a week.
Pettine installed Hoyer as No. 1 on the depth chart, said he’ll take the first-team reps for at least the first couple of days of camp and said, “barring unforeseen events” he’ll start the preseason opener Aug. 9 in Detroit.
“It’s my job and until someone tells me otherwise that’s how I feel about it,” Hoyer said. “I’ve worked hard to prepare myself for this training camp. I’m excited for tomorrow morning.”
The first practice of camp is at 9:30. A capacity crowd is expected, and Manziel is a big reason.
Before he throws his first pass in front of the adoring fans, he defended his partying ways one more time.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me going out and having a nightlife, having a social life,” he said. “I mean, I am 21 years old and I do like going out and 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 or do things like that, then 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 and I’m not trying to compare myself to anybody else, but I think that’s within my rights to be doing that.”
Pettine said Wednesday that it would be a “tall task” and “difficult” for the rookie to beat out Hoyer to start the regular-season opener Sept. 7 in Pittsburgh. Pettine, who said the difficult opening stretch of Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Baltimore could influence his decision, said the hardships for Manziel are learning a new system and competing with a quality veteran.
Manziel sounded undeterred and objected to the notion he’s an underdog in the battle. He also said he didn’t think the off-the-field “mistakes” have hurt his on-field chances.
“I don’t believe so,” Manziel said. “I think there are definitely things I can do moving forward to help better act as a professional and 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 and there are things I need to do better and that’s just part of being a professional.
“I’m absolutely a very competitive person and I’m going to come out here every day and compete. I’m not going to back down from any kind of competition or anybody that really tests me, but at the same time I’m worried about myself and getting better as a football player and getting better at drops, throwing with accuracy, throwing on the run and everything, really commanding a huddle, letting these guys see me on the field more and more.”
Pettine is tired of answering questions about Manziel that mention inflatable swan, champagne, money phone and rolled-up dollar bill. He wants to talk about football and complimented Manziel’s performance since reporting Wednesday with the rookies and quarterbacks.
“It was clear to see that all of (the quarterbacks), especially Johnny, have worked ahead,” Pettine said. “He’s very focused. I think that’s already showed up in the way he came in and how he attacked his conditioning test and how he’s been in the meetings and on the field these past two days.”
But the coach won’t guarantee Manziel any repetitions with the starters in camp and said the rookie’s biggest opponent is the playbook.
“We’re very pleased with where he is with the playbook,” Pettine said. “He’s probably ahead of where we figured he would be, but that’s still a tough thing coming from a system where three words called the play. Now it’s 10, 11, 12 words calling it, and then to be able to process all that information in a shorter period of time, that’s really the challenge for somebody that’s new, just getting used to the speed of the game.
“If we jump in a car and ride 200 miles an hour, we’re probably going to drive off the road, but once you train to do it and you get used to it, everything slows down for you.”
Manziel remains confident he’ll have enough of an opportunity to win the starting job.
“I think Coach Pettine and the staff here has called this an open competition and I believe that it is,” he said. “I’m just trying to get in here every day and trying to be better as a player, as a teammate, really hone in on my craft and try and make this football team as good as I possibly can.”
Hoyer has the same mission.
“The pressure, you can thrive off of that,” he said of the competition. “But the thing that motivates me most is to be the best quarterback for this team.”
Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.