Johnny Manziel watches a lot, throws a little at CFL camp
HAMILTON, Ontario (AP) — Johnny Manziel spent much of the first day of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ training camp as an observer.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner watched a lot of the session Sunday, a day after signing with the Canadian Football league club. Manziel threw while working with the five other quarterbacks and did short tosses to receivers, but knelt off to the side or stood with quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison during 1-on-1 pass drills and 7-on-7 sessions at Ron Joyce Stadium.
“That’s because he doesn’t know the terminology, he doesn’t know anything,” Tiger-Cats coach June Jones said. “Dan was walking through each route as it was called. But (on Monday) guess what? We’re going to walk in and start taking a couple.”
Manziel has plenty to learn about Canadian football. Standing on the field for the first time only served to further drive that point home.
“Spacing is a little bit different on the defensive side if I had to look at anything,” Manziel said. “On offense, I’ve never ran this many routes that are predicated off of one defender ... every route has an opportunity to break three or four different ways, which is different.
“But I think it gives you the versatility and offensive weapons to be able to attack coverages more intensely than it would just running a fixed route. I know it’s going to take some time but now I see it more-so and my expectations are tempered.”
Hamilton’s other quarterbacks include starter Jeremiah Masoli, CFL veterans Vernon Adams Jr., and Bryant Moniz along with youngsters Dane Evans and Chris Merchant of the Vanier Cup-champion Western Mustangs.
Jones said the Ticats aren’t waiting for Johnny Football to become familiar with their offensive terminology and schemes.
“He’s got to catch up because we’ve got guys in there and he will,” Jones said. “We have plenty of time in camp. I’d say in 2 1/2 weeks he’ll have a handle on everything.”
The 25-year-old former Texas A&M star was selected in the first round — No. 22 overall — by the Cleveland Browns in the 2014 NFL draft. He was released in March 2016 after posting a 2-6 record over two tumultuous campaigns.
Manziel actively pursued an NFL contract this offseason, throwing during pro days at both Texas A&M and the University of San Diego, and participating in The Spring League — a development circuit for players overlooked by the NFL.
He has dealt with several off-field issues. In 2016, a domestic assault charge against Manziel in Dallas was dismissed after he took an anger management course and participated in the NFL’s substance-abuse program. In a recent interview, he said he’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has stopped drinking.
The CFL approved the signing, saying that in December it began the process to determine if Manziel could join the league. Manziel had to meet certain conditions, including an assessment by an independent expert on domestic violence, a review by legal counsel and a discussion with Commissioner Randy Ambrosie.
“I’ve been very upfront with my past and the fact that I haven’t been perfect by any means,” Manziel said. “Obviously, the magnitude of my mistakes in the past are something I’m definitely not proud of but at the end of the day I feel like I’ve come a long way from that person that I was at that time.
“I feel I’ve grown a lot and feel through the mistakes I’ve made they’ve turned me into a better person, they’ve turned me into a man. I’ll never be able to outrun my past . . . the only thing I can do is grow and hopefully be a better person moving forward and I have every intention of doing that.”