Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel isn't going to apologize for living life to the fullest, for partying the past five weekends or for having a larger-than-life persona, no matter how many Hall of Famers say he should check his off-field behavior, slow down and lower his profile.
Manziel was among the incoming AFC players who participated Friday morning in a youth football clinic at the Browns' headquarters as part of the NFL Rookie Symposium. He threw passes to kids, ate lunch with them and signed countless autographs.
Manziel, the 22nd pick in last month's NFL draft, also addressed the media for nearly 10 minutes in an interview granted by the league, not the Browns, who have said they won't allow access to Johnny Football until July 25. Speaking to reporters for the first time since June 4, Manziel took a stand like he has before and defended his lifestyle, which has drawn criticism from Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith, Joe Montana and Warren Moon in recent days.
"I'm not going to change who I am for anybody," Manziel said. "I'm growing up and continuing to learn from my mistakes and trying not to make the same ones over and over again. But am I going to live in a shell or am I just going to hide from everybody and not do anything? I don't think that's the way I should live my life, and I'm not going to do it.
"We work hard here. ... I'm very about football and very about my job, which doesn't get reported or won't get reported, but I am going to enjoy my time off."
Manziel, 21, began a streak of partying when he visited Las Vegas during Memorial Day weekend. Since then, he has been photographed drinking out of a large bottle of alcohol atop an inflatable swan and he was recorded on video dropping a vulgar word as he held a stack of money to his ear, as if talking on the phone.
Manziel could barely keep his eyes open in the video, prompting many to wonder whether the Browns would tell him to calm down. He declined to discuss it.
"That was just in the past," said Manziel, who'll battle veteran Brian Hoyer for the Browns' starting quarterback job this summer.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on NFL Insiders Friday afternoon that the video "did not sit well with" Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. He instructed his staff to talk with Manziel about being more savvy as he deals with social media, according to the report.
Manziel, though, said the team hasn't reprimanded him.
He acknowledged that he's closely watched but said he's not jeopardizing the team.
"I've seen that it's an every weekend thing wherever I'm at, whether it's here in Cleveland on a weekend or in Dallas or anywhere on a weekend, people want to record what I'm doing because they think it's a story. Everybody goes out and has fun."
Manziel is aiming to beat Hoyer for the starting job, but he agreed with coach Mike Pettine's statement earlier this month about Hoyer being "securely ahead" in the competition. Pettine, though, also said Hoyer's lead on Manziel wasn't insurmountable.
"I think everything Coach Pettine said was spot on, that Brian obviously is ahead," Manziel said. "He's been doing this a lot longer than I have and I am a rookie, so I have a lot of ground to catch up.
"I want to play. That's what anybody wants to do that's been a starter in the past and been playing. They want to play. ... Will it be the end of the world if that's not the case? No, I think you take it in stride and you learn a lot from your situation and you make the most of what situation you're in."
Some NFL greats believe Manziel would have a better chance of achieving his goal if he curbed his partying. In radio and TV interviews this week, Smith said Manziel has adopted "a short career lifestyle," Montana warned that Manziel shouldn't "forget about football" and Moon stressed that Manziel "needs to keep more of a low profile."
"Those are Hall of Famers, guys that I've grown up watching play and that I absolutely respect and who have been through this and know what's going on," Manziel said. "Just because of what's reported in the media or what's getting out on social media doesn't mean that's all I'm doing in my life. My weekends aren't what I'm doing seven days a week. That's two days out of the week and there's five to six other days when I'm here at this building going through my playbook and working out just like every other rookie is, so nothing that I'm doing on the weekends is affecting my job."
However, Manziel pointed out that the nonstop questions about his behavior are wearing on his teammates.
"I think they're tired of that," Manziel said. "They're tired of the hype, which I am as well."
Browns rookie running back Terrance West conceded that questions about Manziel are "a distraction." Browns rookie linebacker Christian Kirksey added, "We don't want to focus on anything outside of football."
The chaos Manziel's celebrity can create is the primary reason Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles sold himself as the antithesis of Manziel in late February at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"I think it was huge," Bortles, the third overall pick, said of his pre-draft strategy. "You're asking a guy to come in and lead your franchise and be the face of your franchise and go lead your team. It was how I was raised. Don't disgrace your family name, don't disgrace yourself or any organization that you're a part of. So that's kind of how I went about making all those decisions.
"He's definitely in a whole other light than I'm in. He's way more under the microscope. ... He's way more of a celebrity than me."
Manziel, the Browns and fans hope it all turns out fine.
"I'm in a great position and this is a dream come true for me every day that I'm getting to live in a great city with great teammates and great coaches and a great organization, so for me, I'm very happy," Manziel said.
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