BEREA, Ohio – For his next great weekend adventure, Johnny Manziel has reported for work.
He knows many have been curious.
Saturday morning the Cleveland Browns held their first full-squad training camp practice. As expected and previously announced, Manziel commanded the No. 2 offense as part of his quest to eventually unseat veteran starter Brian Hoyer.
After that practice, Manziel took to the offensive when it comes to how he’s spent his last several weekends and the scrutiny he’s received for his partying.
"I have fun playing this game…going out on this field playing football," Manziel said. "It’s what I live for. It’s what I do, the same way off the field. Whether I’m playing golf, going out and having a night life, whatever it is, I have a lot of fun. That’s what my life is, and luckily for me I’m living out my dream of playing in the NFL having a ton of fun. My dream has come true, and I finally got some time to get some downtime and celebrate that with my family, with my friends.
"This is the greatest life that I could have ever imagined for me, and I’m loving that. Will I continue to get better being a professional and learn lessons about life? Of course, I’m 21 years old. Age is not an excuse, but I need to mature and I have done some immature things. Moving forward, I’m going to try and mature and get better and handle myself better as a professional. That’s really all I can say about that.
"My life is incredible. I’m blessed to be in this position. I’m going to have fun each and every day, whether it’s practice, whether it’s training camp, whether it’s during the season going out and playing a game which will be even better, or it’s going out in the offseason or playing golf or hanging out with my family. Life is fun. Enjoy while it’s here."
Camera phones seem to follow Manziel everywhere, and since the Browns last gathered in June he’s been photographed in Houston, Las Vegas, Cabo San Lucas, Los Angeles and at Boston’s Fenway Park. Though he’s often had a drink in his hand in these pictures, perhaps the most infamous of the Manziel photos showed him with what appeared to be a tightly rolled bill in a nightclub bathroom.
"Me and Coach (Mike) Pettine and (Browns general manager) Ray Farmer have really talked about a lot of things that have transpired over the course of the offseason," Manziel said Friday night. "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."
Pettine declined to address any single incident but has said he’s talked with Manziel. Also speaking after Saturday’s practice, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said he thinks "we’re all on the same page" when asked if he’d spoken to Manziel.
"I don’t want to wear this subject out," Haslam said. "Johnny said it himself – he made some mistakes. We expect better from him. I’m sure he’ll perform and now we’re anxious to see what he can do on the field, which is what really counts."
Haslam said the really great athletes make their news on the field, not off the field," and then referenced LeBron James, Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning.
"I think I absolutely agree with Mr. Haslam that I can learn from guys like that," Manziel said.
The Browns traded up to select Manziel at No. 22 overall in May’s NFL Draft after twice passing on him — and twice making other trades — earlier in the draft. He got plenty of reps with the No. 1 offense in the spring as Hoyer recovered from surgery to repair a torn ACL.
Hoyer has been fully cleared for this camp. Both Hoyer and Manziel reported to camp last Wednesday, meaning they’re living at the team hotel and spending long days at the team facility. For Manziel, that means no weekend getaways but still plenty of attention.
Next Saturday, the Browns will hold an intrasquad scrimmage at the University of Akron. The first preseason game is Aug. 9, and Pettine has said he wants to name a starter before the third preseason game on Aug. 23.
In part because of Manziel’s popularity — his is the NFL’s best-selling jersey since last winter — the Browns instituted a pre-registration system for fans attending training camp. Saturday’s first practice was the first of three in which capacity had been reached.
"It’s absolutely a different intensity," Manziel said of his first training camp experience. "We had a team meeting (Friday) and on the board it shows how many days we have until the first preseason game, second, our first (regular season_ game. It’s getting real now. We only have 42 days until the first game and (two weeks) until the first preseason game. It’s getting close. It’s getting real."