Browns try to quell 'Johnny Football' persona

BEREA, Ohio -- When the Cleveland Browns selected former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel with the No. 22 overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, they not only got a football player, but also, the attention that comes with Manziel.

Known in the national media as "Johnny Football," Manziel hit the field this weekend for his first mini-camp with the Browns, but instead of letting the added attention and scrutiny come to their Berea headquarters, the organization decided to limit access to local media only in order to reduce the exposure of Manziel and the entire rookie class.

"It's a concern," first-year Browns coach Mike Pettine said of the attention Manziel draws. "It's something that we have to address. We're well aware of the persona. We're well aware of what it brings.

"We're excited about it. It's something that we're very willing to have come here, knowing that he has a chance to make us a better football team and a better franchise. It's something that we weren't going to turn away from, but as the head coach, it's all about football for me, and it's all about the team."

Although the Browns knew keeping the national media away from Manziel during their rookie mini-camp was not going to be well-received, it was their decision to do what Pettine said was "best for the football team."

"I know it already has and it probably continued to ruffle some feathers with how we handled some things -- I'll apologize in advance for that -- but what we're tasked, as a staff, to do is do what's best for the football team," Pettine said. "If there's something that we feel that we can control that will limit the distractions that this will bring, then, we're going to go ahead and do it.

"It's something that I know probably won't be the most popular thing, especially on a national level, but we also feel that the credibility of the Browns, as far as what stock we have nationally, I don't think we're very highly thought of given the recent history of the team, so it's not really something we're interested in playing into. We want to be in a situation where we want to kind of bunker in, build the best football team we can build and worry about winning football games in the fall."

According to Pettine, there is something different about Manziel than other quarterbacks, but he wants to "temper" the excitement of adding him to the football team with the expectation that Manziel is here to compete for a job and will not be handed anything in the way of a guaranteed starting job from day one.

"We talked about the 'it' factor and he's got it," Pettine said. "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. 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.

"I think it's a situation of Cleveland is hopeful, as we all are, that he will become 'Johnny Football' here and that will continue, but as we've talked about and the kid recognizes -- he embraces it, too -- that he hasn't completed a pass in the NFL, scored a touchdown in the NFL. We don't want to rush it. This is a classic 'cart before the horse' situation. We want it to be that way over time, so I don't think it's a situation where we're quelling it, but I just think that we want to temper it.

"He knows it, if he wants to develop and be 'Johnny Football' in the NFL, he's got to earn in. I think he knows that that is at the end of the tunnel for him, but he still has to travel through that tunnel."


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