BEREA, Ohio — It was not Johnny Manziel’s best day as the Cleveland Browns continued their final week of organized team activity practices Tuesday.
Running with the first-team offense in the first 11-on-11 drill of Tuesday’s practice, Manziel threw his first pass over the middle. No one was around but safety Donte Whitner, who intercepted the pass and ran for what probably would have been an easy defensive touchdown.
Three OTA practices have been open to the media. It appeared that Manziel threw more bad passes than good ones in the last two.
Still, it’s just practice — in the first week of June, nonetheless — so there’s no tackling, no one’s in full pads and there should be no jumping to conclusions, either.
"It’s difficult when he’s got the red (non-contact jersey) on and the defensive guys know they can’t tackle him," Pettine said of Manziel and his natural playmaking ability. "It’s hard to get glimpses of that, but we did some designed rollouts with him, and he’s shown when he can get in the open field he can run through an angle and he can eat up some ground pretty quickly."
Pettine said he’d have to see the film and know the plays called by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to get a full evaluation of Manziel’s day, but Pettine said on at least one of the interceptions a receiver ran the wrong route.
A few plays after he stared down his receiver and had his out route intercepted along the sideline by Joe Haden, Manziel threw a long floater along the other sideline that Haden couldn’t reach and veteran Anthony Armstrong caught for what would have been a long touchdown.
Probably the play of the day came late in practice when Manziel rolled right and threw back to his left on what looked like a designed rollout/throwback to Jordan Cameron. Two defenders were on Cameron all the way — one, strangely, was nose tackle Ishmaa’ily Kitchen — but the throw went over the heads of both defenders and fell into Cameron’s outstretched arms.
"The first thing I wondered was what the hell coverage we were we in," Pettine said of the 330-pound Kitchen running 30 yards downfield. "I think he just sensed the play coming because we’ve been burned on it a couple times in practice, so he just latched on to him and started running. It was actually pretty funny."
Practices are closed to the public, but that didn’t stop a man Tuesday who found his way in and went to the middle of the practice fields, speaking to team personnel before being escorted out. The man, who looked to be in his 20s and sported big shoulders and buzzcut, apparently asked for a tryout. He was carrying a very large backpack; he might have brought out his own football equipment.
Maybe he just wanted a look at Manziel.
The Browns had previously decided Manziel wouldn’t be made available to the media after practice. He is scheduled to speak at a community event Wednesday, set for a few hours before he throws out the first pitch at the Cleveland Indians-Boston Red Sox game.
Based on what Manziel said last week, that will be his first exposure to Downtown Cleveland and to a large Cleveland audience.
It figures to be a crazy atmosphere. There’s no game in town like the Browns, who haven’t had a player as popular as Manziel in a long, long time. There will certainly be a bunch of No. 2 jerseys — for the guy who remains the Browns No. 2 quarterback — in Progressive Field Wednesday night.