AJ McCarron isn’t talking about Johnny Manziel. He is staying above it all, not showing any jealousy or dislike of Manziel, not passing judgment, not playing off of Manziel’s sudden infamy, not jabbing at Manziel or expressing disapproval. And by no means is he already starting up the hype for the Alabama-Texas A&M game this season.
“I can’t answer on Johnny Manziel’s part,’’ McCarron said. “My name’s AJ, so everything that has to do with him. . . . He’s his own man. I’m not going to speak on another man’s business. That’s how I was raised.’’
"My name’s AJ” That seemed like a cry out in so many ways. McCarron spoke at the SEC Media Days on Thursday, and the whole thing had the feel of a parent who was chewing out his kid without looking at him or directly mentioning him by name.
McCarron, the Alabama quarterback and national champion, clearly has issues with Manziel. But he isn’t saying it. Not at all.
On Wednesday, Manziel left the SEC media event to get to the ESPY Awards, where he could continue his year-long Heisman end-zone dance. Johnny Name-Dropper hangs out with the Beautiful People of sports now.
“Your right I’m not at the espy’s!’’ McCarron tweeted Wednesday night. “I don’t have to be at a award show to know what my team did. I’m back at school working to get another #16.’’
Soon after, McCarron deleted that tweet. He said Thursday it had nothing to do with Manziel, and that he deleted it because of the grammar police on Twitter.
No, McCarron’s not talking about Manziel at all.
Someone asked McCarron if he got a chance to see the guy he’s not talking about on TV during the ESPYs.
“I didn’t watch any of it,’’ he said. “I’m busy trying to get my teammates to play the best they can play.’’
In the end, it doesn’t really matter if McCarron is upset with Manziel. In fact, he makes a good point, that the goal in football is to win championships, which he has done and Manziel has not.
McCarron apparently feels that a little thing like the national championship is being overlooked. In some ways, he’s trying to remind us of old values, of teamwork and selflessness. Yes, those are virtues.
But it was coming across like the loser in a beauty pageant complaining that she thought she had aced the interview category.
McCarron’s solid, mistake-free football is not what we celebrate in this country. He still can’t live down coach Nick Saban calling him a game-manager. Manziel is a scrambler, creator, inventor.
And also, Manziel keeps finding his way into small amounts of trouble. McCarron set himself up Thursday as the contrast.
Someone asked him if he feels he’s strangely under the radar for the national champion.
“Being under the radar for me is great,’’ he said. “I’ve never been the type of guy to ask for spotlight or want to be in any spotlight. I’m a team player, and I don’t care about my personal goals or my personal stats.
“In the world we live in nowadays, everything’s about social media and what type of fame you can get off of that, and spotlight and everything. That’s just not the way I am. I don’t need spotlight. I’m happy in my own skin, the person I am.’’
Don’t forget: He’s not talking about Manziel.
“I can’t go out and act a fool in public,’’ McCarron said. “I can’t go out and drink excessively and be wild. I can’t do that.
“I’m not saying that I want to in any type of way, but I want to be the type of (person) younger kids can look up to me. I just want them to have a role model to look up to.’’
The truth is, McCarron was trying to go about this with class. It takes skill to scream something out without actually saying it. It sounded somewhat like Saban.
McCarron never sounded sour. He looked you in the eye when he spoke, and just set out his philosophy. Of course, that philosophy was in direct opposition to Manziel, who managed to be the centerpiece of the whole SEC media event.
They were roommates at the Manning passing camp. Manziel was sent home early after missing a meeting. He said he had overslept, and that no one could call to warn him because his cell phone was dead. He denied reports that he wasn’t even in the room that morning. Wouldn’t McCarron have known? And didn’t he try to wake up Manziel that morning?
On Thursday, then, McCarron was in a great spot to be harsh on Manziel if he wanted simply by explaining what happened that night and morning.
But McCarron didn’t want to talk about that.
“My job’s to play football,’’ he said, “not to be a celebrity off the field.’’
Well then, maybe both guys are getting what they want.