INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Browns coach Mike Pettine said Wednesday he believes quarterback Johnny Manziel is in a "better place" since entering a treatment program earlier this month.
Manziel, his family and the team have not said why he sought help. Pettine did not provide any additional details about the reasons, citing privacy concerns, and that there was no timetable for his return.
But on the first big day of this week’s NFL scouting combine, Pettine said he visited the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner last week.
"He’s in a much better place now than when he went in," Pettine said. "He’s very determined to come out of it in a much better way."
That might be the best possible news for Cleveland, which has used 22 different starting quarterbacks since the franchise returned to the league in 1999.
Manziel came to last year’s combine with the reputation of a big-time playmaker and a frequent partier, a combination that scared away some wary teams, but Cleveland chose "Johnny Football" with the No. 22 overall pick.
He looked unprepared and overmatched in his first career start, throwing two interceptions in a 30-0 loss to Cincinnati. The next week at Carolina, Manziel injured his hamstring on a running play before halftime. He didn’t play again. Manziel was fined later by the Browns for missing a medical treatment before the season finale at Baltimore.
After apologizing to Cleveland’s fans and his teammates for being a distraction, he promised to change. Over the next couple of days, photos of Manziel appeared on Instagram, showing him in a Houston nightclub and in Aspen, Colorado — all before choosing to enter treatment.
Pettine was sked if the Browns make a mistake in vetting Manziel.
"I think we had the same information everyone else in the league had," he said. "It turns out to be a deeper-rooted thing than we thought."
Pettine said it was Manziel’s decision to seek help and that he and the team fully support the effort.
Manziel is only part of the Browns’ offseason mess.
Leading receiver Josh Gordon has been suspended again for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy and will miss the entire 2015 season.
NFL officials also are investigating whether general manager Ray Farmer broke the rules by sending text messages to the Browns sideline during games.
"I wasn’t thrilled about it," Pettine said when asked about his initial reaction to the texts. "But Ray and I have had a very clear conversation about it, and he apologized not only to myself but others in the organization."
Pettine added: "We’re waiting for the league to hand down the punishment, and we’ll accept whatever it is."
In addition to all of that, team owner Jimmy Haslam has been criticized for meddling in player decisions and draft strategy. Pettine denied both accusations.
But Pettine insists the Browns can overcome the public perception.
"You’d be surprised how good the mood is inside the Browns building," Pettine said. "I know that’s not a feeling shared by a lot of people outside the building. But if I had the choice, that’s the way I’d prefer it."
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