BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Johnny will be good.
That’s what the Browns expect from Johnny Manziel now that training camp is about to start.
Cleveland coach Mike Pettine said he’s not worried about the popular rookie’s wild off-field behavior carrying into the season, and he’s determined not to let any outside influences affect his decision in picking either Manziel or veteran Brian Hoyer to be his starting quarterback.
Pettine, who will open his first training camp on Saturday, discussed Manziel, Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon’s clouded situation and several other topics during an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Manziel, the former Texas A&M star nicknamed “Johnny Football” for his dazzling skills, made headlines throughout the offseason with his weekend partying. And while most of it was seemingly innocent, a recent photo of him appearing to roll up a dollar bill brought him even more scrutiny.
Pettine said he’s aware of the photo, and during his recent vacation, he called Manziel to discuss the young QB’s conduct.
“I picked up the phone and called him,” Pettine said. “It was a good conversation, positive and I’m confident going forward, especially now that it’s all about football, I think some of this will and should quiet down because football season is different. The offseason is one thing, but it’s all about preparation and I think he knows that in order for him to compete well, he’s going to have to probably be more dedicated than he has ever been.”
Manziel has insisted he will not change his ways and that he’s entitled to have fun away from football.
Pettine said Manziel has been dedicated to learning his playbook, and has given the Browns no reason to think he’s going to be a distraction. Pettine believes Manziel is beginning to understand the responsibility that comes along with being a high-profile athlete and social media sensation.
“I think that’s a process for him and I think he’s headed along the right path with that,” Pettine said. “I think if you talk to him, he gets it. Some of the things I think he gets a little frustrated with, but I think he’s coming to realize that, ‘Yeah, this all comes with the territory.’”
Hoyer, who has worked his way back after undergoing knee surgery, begins camp with a lead over Manziel in their competition to be Cleveland’s starter. Pettine said he would like to name his starter “reasonably quickly,” and that he and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have discussed how to divide up the practice repetitions evenly.
Manziel might have a huge fan following — his No. 2 jersey has outsold all others since April in the NFL’s online store — but Pettine said he won’t be swayed to name him a starter.
“All the decisions we make will be based on football,” he said. “We’re not going to base our depth chart on jersey sales.
“The external pressure will not factor into our decision. It’s an easy decision for us. It’s who gives us the best chance to line up against the Pittsburgh Steelers in September and win that football game, that’s what it boils down to and that’s as simple as it is for us. But it’s a decision that we want to make pretty quickly because there needs to be some chemistry developed.”
As for Gordon, Pettine expects him to report on Friday and practice Saturday. The team is awaiting clarity from the league on Gordon, who could be facing an indefinite ban for another violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Pettine said he’s beyond the point of worrying about whether Gordon will play at all this season. Gordon was suspended two games last season.
However, Pettine did make it clear the team has no plans to release Gordon and want to help him.
“Josh is a Cleveland Brown and we want what’s best for him and we want what’s best for us,” he said. “He’s smart. He’s bright. He’s creative. He’s a guy that in a lot of ways that you root for.”