Johnny Manziel’s agent: CFL is a ‘very viable option’

Johnny Manziel’s agent says that while his client remains focussed on the NFL, playing in the CFL is a “very real possibility.”

Erik Burkhardt spoke to the media after Manziel’s workout at the Texas A&M pro day on Tuesday and said he and his client have discussed playing in Canada for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats,  who own his CFL rights.

“We’ve talked about it, we’ve vetted it, I’ve spoken to the guys in Hamilton and I think they’re a really good group,” Burkhardt said, mentioning vice president of football operations Kent Austin, head coach June Jones and team CEO Scott Mitchell by name. “It’s a really interesting and a good, positive fit for him if he decides to go that route. I think it’s a very viable option.

“He hadn’t had a helmet on in two years so his whole thing was ‘ okay, Canada is there, it’s a viable option. ‘We’ve got an offer on the table, I’ve talked a lot with those guys about fit, systems and the differences in the game – Johnny and I have watched CFL film together. It’s a really cool game.”

That said, Burkhardt acknowledged that Manziel’s ultimate objective remains to get back to the NFL and that there is no timeline for a decision. Manziel is set to report to The Spring League, an unpaid showcase for players looking for a professional opportunity, on Wednesday and will play two games in April.

“We’ll see how The Spring League goes. Make no mistake about it, Johnny’s goal is to get back with an opportunity in the NFL and that’s no disrespect to the CFL or any other league,” Burkhardt said. “Timing of when [CFL] camp starts might be a challenge there. Obviously playing the demanding position of quarterback, it’s not like he can show up a week before the Canadian or any other season starts and go ball. He’s got to learn the system get comfortable with teammates to be successful at that position.

“I think Hamilton is a good option, as some other teams may be up there if given the opportunity to play for those guys.”

Burkhardt, who dropped Manziel as a client after he struggled with off-field issues in 2016 only to be reunited just over a year later, says that Manziel has a new approach to life and his role in football.

“I haven’t seen him like this, ever. I love where he’s at right now. He’s balanced he’s married. We talk literally every day and we’re not talking much about football,” Burkhardt said. “He’s got practice squad eligibility in the NFL. I’m not going in saying I want to take some guy’s job or be a starter. That’s not the expectation here. We’ll go in and be the third-stringer, practice squad guy, get coffee for everybody, whatever he’s got to do to start from the bottom.

“There’s a different mentality for these young men coming out of college when they start from the bottom and have to work for it, a seventh-round pick an undrafted guy. It’s different than when you come out as a Heisman Trophy winner, first-round draft pick. I think he’s coming at it from that angle and mindset now, on and off the field and I think that’s a critical distinction. I think coaches in the NFL know what I’m talking about. He knows he has to earn everything.”

The agent also said that Manziel believes his willingness to publicly address his mental health and addiction issues as part of his comeback is more important than what he accomplishes as a player.

“This is bigger than football. When you look at the millions and millions of people dealing with mental illness, whether it be depression or bipolar… that’s where he can really make an impact,” Burkhardt said. “I don’t think going back to the NFL and throwing 50 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions is not going to touch and effect as many lives as the redemption story off the field.”