Football / Sports

Johnny Manziel adjusting to life as a Cleveland Brown

BEREA, Ohio -- The list is notable.

It includes LeBron James, former Indians Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez among others. This week, Cleveland sports fans were able to add a rookie NFL quarterback to the list �" Teddy Bridgewater.

They flee or they don't want to come.

James, Thome and Ramirez fled through free agency, and Bridgewater wanted no part of Cleveland in the first place.

But the primary takeaway from the Browns' drafting of Johnny Manziel is the quarterback from Texas A&M wants to make his mark with rabid football fans howling him on as he hopes to toil amongst the whipping, bone-chilling winds that can come off Lake Erie during games in late November and early December.

He wanted the Browns to draft him and said so in a draft-day text.

That fact will and likely has already endeared him to Browns fans. He exudes confidence, but there's something else. He shows some humility, too.

Coach Mike Pettine and owner Jimmy Haslam agreed that Manziel, for now, is the backup quarterback. In this day and age, when first rounders at Manziel's position are expected to play right away, that's almost unheard of.

Pettine said he reinforced that position with his rookie quarterback.

"That is where he is," Pettine said after the first day of rookie minicamp on Saturday. "It is the cart-before-the-horse-type scenario. He knows it. If he wants to develop and be 'Jonny Football' in the NFL, he's got to earn it.

"I think he knows that that is the end of the tunnel for him, but he still has to travel through that tunnel."

Manziel said he had no problem with it, echoing his coach's sentiment.

"I took it in stride. I'm a rookie. I need to earn my place," he said at the Browns indoor training facility. "I need to earn my keep. Nothing here needs to be handed to me. I don't need to be treated based off what I've done in the past because that doesn't mean a thing at this level."

Falling from possible No. 1 pick, all the way to No. 22 in the first round before the Browns drafted him might have had an effect as he waited.

"I got passed up 21 times, so that says something. Success came early, but things never came easy, whether it seemed that way or whatever the case was, I had to work extremely hard to get to where I was and overcome a lot," Manziel said.

But he said that he didn't need to be humbled.

"I realize where I'm at in this organization and what I need to be doing, and that's all I'm really focused on," he said.

Pettine said it is difficult to get a read on a player in shorts, practicing indoors with players he has not played with before.

"I think he's just concentrating now on just learning, as the other quarterbacks are, learning the playbook, learning the formations, learning the footwork. He's really at the infant stages of his career here," Pettine said.

But even Pettine realizes that there's something more to Manziel.

"We talked about the 'it' factor and he's got it. But we also think Brian (Hoyer) has it as well. I think all NFL quarterbacks have to have that swagger about them, that aura that it's confidence and not cockiness. It's a fine line," Pettine said. "I think when he steps on the field, based on what he's done so far, and he's earned it, that people look at him a little differently and expect a little bit more."

Manziel will have to project that confidence, show the swagger and perform on the field to earn the trust of his teammates, but they offer respect already.

Third-round draft choice Terrance West, a running back from Towson, recognizes the potential talent.

"He's a special guy. Johnny Manziel is special," he said. "He makes plays. That's what you want on your team; you want somebody that's going to make plays. That's what he brings to the table."

Second-round draft choice Joel Bitonio, a 6-foot-4, 302-pound offensive lineman, received the locker next to Manziel and calls him a good guy.

"He's just a good teammate. That's what Johnny Manziel is," he said. "That's the Johnny Manziel I've known. I don't think we're worried about him being a crazy guy or anything like that."

That sounds like the type of player made for the Browns and Northeast Ohio. Add the attitude and he gives a team, its fans and a region reason for hope. And he wants to be here.

"People wanted to win here and you got a sense of that," Manziel said. "They're tired of losing. They're tired of not having success. And I felt like for me, if I came here, the team had pieces. I watched the team last year. It was better than the year before.

"You had Pro Bowlers on the field. You have guys that are playing a lot better and a lot harder. I think they're tired of losing as well, so if you get that attitude and you mix some live pieces in with the puzzle, you have a chance for success."

(c)2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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