BEREA, Ohio -- Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel are trying to tune out distractions as they take their paces en route to the most important duel of the Browns' preseason.
Whoever can handle the pressure more effectively and achieve greater focus will have an advantage when he turns and fires Monday night at Washington. The primetime showdown at FedEx Field will be the final audition for Hoyer and Manziel before coach Mike Pettine, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains and others meet Tuesday to choose one of them as the starting quarterback for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at Pittsburgh.
Of course, the veteran and the rookie are attempting to block out the noise in different ways with contrasting mindsets.
There's a sense of urgency with Hoyer, which is fine if it doesn't cause him to press.
"I think every game is crucial," Hoyer said Saturday after the final practice of training camp. "For me, it doesn't change the way I prepare. The thing that I try to do is come out and be the best quarterback I can every day, and I'll do the same thing Monday night."
Choking doesn't even seem to be a remote possibility in Manziel's mind.
"I don't think there's any pressure for me," Manziel said. "I'm still learning. I'm still growing. This is my second game. My expectations aren't through the roof. It's go out and compete extremely hard and be a leader for those guys, whatever group I'm with, and we'll see what happens."
Pettine said he plans to give Hoyer and Manziel about the same number of reps with the first-team offense. The Browns are going to play their starters for about a half. On the other hand, Washington is planning to do the same for roughly a quarter.
Pettine said he'll call Washington coach Jay Gruden to get a better idea about what to expect from a substitution standpoint. Pettine wants to see Manziel face Washington's first-team defense, so he might have to rotate Hoyer and Manziel accordingly to guarantee it happens.
"If we have to make some adjustments to get the matchups we want, then we will," Pettine said.
Hoyer will start, but the average fan wouldn't know it by glancing at ESPN. The network has promoted its upcoming edition of Monday Night Football as a battle between Manziel, the 22nd overall pick in this year's draft, and Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Hoyer is determined to prevent the snub from throwing him off.
"I don't watch ESPN, so until you told me that, I didn't know," Hoyer said. "It doesn't matter because what matters is what Coach Pettine thinks and what Kyle thinks. The media can make any story they want. I avoid all of that. When it comes down to it, they're not the ones making the decisions.
"This whole situation I think has brought a lot of attention to our team and this city, which I think is always a good thing. But I'm so far removed from that, that it's not even a concern of mine."
Is it difficult to deal with everyone assuming Manziel will inevitably start at some point?
"I haven't heard that," Hoyer said. "So, no, not really."
Hoyer also has needed to shut out speculation about his future. Rumors about the Browns possibly trading Hoyer after they signed third-string quarterback Rex Grossman on Tuesday surfaced on sports talk radio and Twitter.
"I guess people were trying to connect the dots, and that's 1/8the media's3/8 job to do that," Hoyer said. "For me, I'm not concerned about anything like that. I'm looking forward to being the starting quarterback here."
Manziel has the same goal in his cross hairs, but he's not going to consider himself a failure if it doesn't happen right away.
"I don't look at it as though I was drafted to come in Day One and save the franchise," Manziel said. "I feel like my future is here, and they brought me in to hopefully be the future down the road one day. So, for me, there's no pressure. There's no timetable. It's continue to develop as a football player, get smarter, get better and whenever that time is, then I'll go out and play football."
Manziel said he believes he won't let anyone's expectations rattle him because he's accustomed to having every one of his throws heavily scrutinized.
"The chaos, everything that's been going on, the talk, the hype, the overreaction, the over-analysis has been from the day that I won the Heisman 1/8Trophy in 20123/8 when I was a freshman, to that spring, to that fall, to the draft, to now," Manziel said. "It's been a constant in my life. It's been the one thing that's been the most constant in my life for the past two years. So I don't even pay attention to it any more. I don't ever really see it. It never really even fazes me."
The transition from college to the NFL is difficult. The 17-word play calls in Shanahan's system are about three times longer than the ones Manziel used at Texas A&M.
"It's not easy," Manziel said. "It's like learning Spanish really for the first few weeks."
Manziel even admitted he's not "ready for Pittsburgh right now," but he's confident he could be by Week 1.
"That's not saying I'm not ready or I won't be ready," Manziel said. "I don't want that taken out of context. It's just right now in my second preseason game, I'm not ready to go out and start Week 1 because there's a lot of time left until that point. For me, there's plenty of weeks left to learn to get adapted to the speed. And then if I was the starter for Pittsburgh in Week 1, you have to be ready."
Manziel said he thinks he can still win the starting job heading into the regular season.
"I think from what Coach Pettine and everybody has stated from the beginning, they said it was an equal and open competition," Manziel said. "And I don't think that has changed."
Manziel confessed he was late to a team meeting Monday morning, as ESPN reported Thursday. He thinks his tardiness had no bearing on the team's decision to start Hoyer at Washington.
"I personally don't think it had any 1/8affect on the3/8 decision," Manziel said. "I misread the schedule on Monday. I think we had to come in at 7:30 and I think it was the only day that we have had to come in at that time throughout camp, and I was on time for what I thought was our normal 8:15 meeting time. So it was just a misinterpretation, a misreading of the schedule, and I sat down with Coach Pettine and I talked to him and we handled it and we've moved on. Obviously it's something 1/8where3/8 I just need to do a better job of reading the schedule the night before, but it was an honest mistake and something I need to learn from and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Regardless, the finish line in the quarterback derby is nearby, though Pettine has said he won't commit to the Week 1 starting quarterback for the entire season.
"I think the best quarterback should play regardless of the situation," Hoyer said. "It's a situation I dealt with last year when I came in. We kind of said it was a week-to-week thing. So, for me, I just want to be the starting quarterback of this team whatever the situation is."
No matter who wins the job, many players are eager for an outcome. For example, right offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz believes the victor will attain "mental peace."
"It gives you more confidence when you just know you're the guy," Schwartz said.
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