Pettine says Manziel ‘in a better place’ than he was before

INDIANAPOLIS — Before Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine came to Indianapolis to the NFL Scouting Combine, he went to visit Johhny Manziel.

Manziel checked himself into an undisclosed treatment center in late January, and Pettine said Wednesday that he recently paid Manziel a visit.

"(Manziel) is in a better place (mentally) than he was before he went in," Pettine said. "He’s very determined to come out of it the right way."

Pettine said he didn’t want to say too much about his conversations with Manziel out of respect for Manziel and the treatment program he’s undergoing.

"I let him know we are proud of him for the decision he made to go in," Pettine said, reinforcing the statement Manziel’s representation made earlier this month that it was Manziel’s decision, not the team’s or anyone else’s, for him to seek help.

The Browns selected Manziel at No. 22 overall in the first round of last year’s NFL Draft and he made more headlines off the field than on it, where he showed little in three brief appearances and two starts before a hamstring injury ended his season a week early. Manziel had been reporting to Browns Headquarters for treatment of the hamstring in January per rules of finishing the season on injured-reserve before checking himself into a treatment center.

Manziel was forced to watch the season finale from the locker room by Pettine after he missed the final Saturday morning walkthrough and team officials had to go to his apartment to wake him up. He was previously involved in an early morning incident in the lobby of his Downtown Cleveland apartment complex that resulted in police reports but no charges being filed.

Pettine answered questions about what the Browns knew about Manziel’s off-field habits Wednesday before the draft by saying, "We had the same information everybody else had. We obviously felt comfortable enough to draft him. It turned out to be a deeper-rooted thing than we thought."

With veteran Brian Hoyer, who started the Browns first 13 games at quarterback before being benched in favor of Manziel, eligible for free agency, the Browns are weighing their options and Pettine admitted Wednesday he’s "glad we don’t have a game this weekend."

Pettine said the Browns expect Manziel to eventually rejoin the team; formal offseason conditioning workouts begin in April.

"We will treat him as we treated him before," Pettine said. "He will be one of our 90 players in the spring and we will go from there."

DB Signed: The Browns announced Wednesday the signing of Varmah Sonie, a 5-foot-8 defensive back officially in his first year in the NFL after a college career at Northern Iowa. He finished last season on the practice squad of the Buccaneers.