BEREA — ESPN analyst Merril Hoge hasn’t changed his predraft opinion of Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel.
In fact, it’s gotten stronger. And nastier.
“If you’re the Steelers defense you want No. 2 to walk out on that field,” Hoge told WDVE-FM in Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning.
“You want him on that field.
“He has no business being on the field right now. This is the one thing that probably burns me more about the NFL more than anything, is when a player like Johnny Manziel is drafted based on hype and excitement, not a true football skill.”
Hoge was a running back for the Steelers from 1987-93.
“He really had no business being drafted in the first round,” Hoge continued. “When I was doing the draft and I was going through and studying him, I actually got done and it’s the first time, aside from when Tim Tebow came out, there’s nothing, nothing he does that transitions to the National Football League. There’s not one skill set he had where you say, ‘Gosh, he’s a first-rounder.’ Really nothing.”
Hoge also has a problem with Manziel’s off-the-field behavior, including a draft-night text to Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains promising to “wreck this league.”
“That didn’t just burn players, it infuriates coaches,” Hoge said. “It told you, too, that he’s a juvenile punk. He was like that, and he’s still like that.”
Hoge expects Manziel to be a bust. And soon.
“This will be the saddest, quickest ending we’ve seen in quite some time,” he said. “It’ll be like a Tim Tebow.”
Browns coach Mike Pettine said he didn’t want to respond, but delivered a couple of messages.
“Where did he play again?” Pettine said. “I don’t want to be in that business of responding to individual criticism. I just know there are — in the age that we’re in of sensationalism — a lot of times people that want to be heard have to make bold
statements in order to bring attention to them. That’s something that I think is a regular occurrence in this league.”
Manziel didn’t have much of a reaction when asked about Hoge’s comments.
“Stuff pops up on my phone and I happened to see something,” Manziel told ESPN.com. “He’s been in the opposite corner of me for a while now so all I can really do is go out and try to prove him wrong. He’s entitled to every bit of his opinion.”
Stick with one
The Browns are considering using Manziel in a package of plays off the bench, perhaps starting Sunday in the opener against Pittsburgh. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wouldn’t want to be the starter sent to the bench.
“It’s tough,” he said on a conference call. “I want whatever’s best for this team, but I know where a lot of quarterbacks are coming from when they say they want to stay on the field. I’d want to stay on the field, too.
“When you line up with your quarterback behind center, it gives you usually the best chance to win, and you want to get into a rhythm, you want to get into some kind of a flow and it’s hard to do that when you’re alternating series or you’re not in there for this or you come out for a certain play. I know how frustrating it can probably be for some quarterbacks.”
Pettine wouldn’t say if Manziel will play Sunday.
“I’m not going to talk about any (of that),” he said. “Once we get to the point where we formulate a game plan, anything that would put us at a competitive disadvantage and any game plan stuff, I’ll feel free to talk about it afterwards.”
Browns starter Brian Hoyer would be the one losing the playing time. He was told about Roethlisberger’s comments.
“I think Ben is a little more established than I am,” Hoyer said. “If it helps us win the game, that’s what it comes down to.
Whether we win the game by a field goal, by one point, by whatever.
“Me as a competitor I want to be out there, but if our coaching staff thinks there’s a package that can help us win … the team is way bigger than me and I’m a team player. I just want to win football games here, that’s all.”
As a pair of reporters approached rookie Chris Kirksey, fellow inside linebacker Craig Robertson tried to protect him.
“Leave him alone, he’s 1 foot, 2 inches,” Robertson said.
Kirksey became a bit of a national celebrity when a glitch in the popular “Madden NFL 15” video game cut 5 feet off his actual height of 6-2. He’s also playing for the Tennessee Titans instead of the Browns.
“I couldn’t even see myself, I was a little dot moving around and then they zoomed in and I saw 58 and I was like, ‘Why am I this small and why am I on the Titans?’” said Kirksey, who found out Tuesday. “Then somebody told me what happened.”
Kirksey said he used to play “Madden” a lot when he was younger but doesn’t much anymore. He’s not sure how the mistake happened, or if it can be fixed.
“Somebody went onto Wikipedia and changed my height to 1-2,” he said. “It’s pretty funny.”
Defensive end Desmond Bryant still hasn’t practiced following wrist surgery Aug. 18. He hasn’t been ruled out for Sunday and called himself “day-to-day,” but he seems unlikely to play.
“It’s tough to say,” Bryant said of a return. “Getting a little better each day and as soon as I can be back out there I will.”
Bryant said he arrived at training camp feeling good, but the wrist began to bother him. He said it wasn’t a particular play that forced the surgery “but football in general.”
The setback is disappointing after Bryant missed the final four games last year with an irregular heartbeat that was corrected with a cardiac ablation.
“Anytime I’m missing snaps, practice, game, it bothers me,” he said. “I’d love to be out there with my guys. I kind of have to watch from afar, offer as much support as I can and behind the scenes I’m doing everything I can to get back out there as soon as I can.”
Bryant said playing with a cast is a possibility, but it hadn’t been decided yet.
Offensive lineman Paul McQuistan (ankle) was the other player not to practice. His left leg was in a walking boot.
Defensive lineman John Hughes (hamstring) was limited.