The Canadian Football League says it’s investigating a report that former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel had a workout with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Sources with 3DownNation.com say Manziel was put through the paces by the Riders in Florida in advance of last month’s Senior Bowl. Manziel is on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ negotiation list, having been added on Sept. 9, 2012, and Saskatchewan did not have permission to conduct a workout.
The team says it did not work out Manziel.
“The Saskatchewan Roughriders have not held or attended a workout involving Johnny Manziel,” said Riders vice-president of football operations, general manager and head coach Chris Jones in a statement released by the team. “With that, I will not be commenting further on the report.”
One of the sources works in the CFL and another is close to Manziel. They independently said they had knowledge of a workout but did not want their identities divulged.
Late yesterday afternoon Johnny Manziel told TMZ.com that the workout with Saskatchewan did not happen.
“I have had no workouts with any team from the CFL,” Manziel said.
CFL spokespeople Paulo Senra said the league is looking into it.
“We are investigating. The Riders tell us that they did not work out Manziel. So at this point, it appears the report is false,” Senra said in statement. “Should other evidence come to light, we will deal with it accordingly.”
CFL bylaws state that clubs are “expressly forbidden to negotiate, directly or indirectly, with a player whose name is on the negotiation list of another member club.”
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner has been out of football for an entire season after being released by Cleveland on Mar. 11, 2016. That said, Manziel has started his rehabilitation tour back to pro football in a public setting. He sent out a series of Tweets on Jan. 19 acknowledging past struggles with alcohol although he has since deleted his Twitter account, stating it is a “distraction.”
Manziel has been at the centre of controversy, the most serious of which involved a domestic violence charge stemming from an altercation with his then-girlfriend. In December, Manziel struck a deal with prosecutors that would see the charges dropped if he met certain conditions over the period of a year.
Last August, CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge told ESPN that Manziel would be welcome in the CFL if he could assure the league he would be an appropriate fit for its culture.
The Browns selected Manziel in the first-round, 22nd overall in the 2014 NFL draft. He played in 14 games, starting eight (2-6 win-loss), completing 147 of 258 passes (57 per cent completion rate) for 1,675 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions, posting a 74.4 QB rating. Manziel added 46 carries for 259 yards (5.6-yards-per-carry) and one touchdown.
This isn’t the first time the Riders have faced league scrutiny since Jones took over as general manager and head coach before the 2016 season. In August, the CFL fined the Roughriders $60,000 and reduced the team’s salary cap by $26,000 for practising with ineligible players.