BEREA, Ohio — Johnny Manziel doesn’t expect to get anything more than a chance to start for the Browns.
In college, he was Johnny Football. In the NFL, he’s just a young quarterback.
“I’m a rookie,” Manziel said Saturday. “I need to earn my place. I need to earn my keep. Nothing here needs to be handed to me. I don’t need to be treated based off what I did in the past because that doesn’t mean a thing at this level.”
The most-hyped college player to enter the league in years, Manziel is participating in his first workouts as a pro this weekend. Just over a week ago, the Browns traded up in the first round to select the former Texas A&M quarterback.
With Browns owner Jimmy Haslam watching from the sideline, Manziel threw three short passes to running backs during the 15-minute period the practice session was open to the media. The workout for Cleveland’s draft picks and undrafted free agents was limited by first-year Browns coach Mike Pettine to local reporters and photographers. The team barred national media members and are limiting access to try to calm the overwhelming hype around Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman with the Aggies.
Manziel was humble while discussing his arrival in Cleveland, which has touched off “Manzielmania” among Browns fans, some of whom see him as the one to finally turn around this woeful franchise.
On Thursday, quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains revealed that Manziel sent a text message to the Browns during last week’s draft, urging the team to pick him. As he slid further in the first round, Manziel reached out to the Browns with a text that Loggains said read: “I wish you guys would come get me. Hurry up and draft me because I want to wreck this league together.”
Loggains said he forwarded the message to Pettine and Haslam, who said, “Pull the trigger. We’re trading up to go get this guy.”
Manziel confirmed he did exchange texts with Loggains, but said the one in which he claimed he would “wreck this league” may have been exaggerated.
“I don’t know if that’s exactly word for word,” he said. “It was something along those lines.”
As for his desire to join the Browns, Manziel said that was all true.
“This was a place I felt comfortable with,” he said. “I liked the situation here and I wanted to come here, and if they wanted to take me and were trying to get me earlier, I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ I don’t know what kind of influence that had or what exactly that did, but this was a place I wanted to be and ended up here. And for me, whether it’s whenever it is I get a chance to play, I don’t want to come in and be mediocre.”
After he joined the Browns, Pettine told Manziel that if he wants to start he’s going to have to beat out Brian Hoyer, who made three starts last year before a knee injury ended his season.
Manziel said he took the message in stride and understands he’s nothing special — not yet.
“I was completely OK with hearing that from everybody,” he said. “I don’t want to come in and have anything handed to me that I don’t deserve.”