Here’s why Tuesday’s Johnny Manziel news should be treated a little bit differently than Monday’s Johnny Manziel news or the Johnny Manziel news that will inevitably follow every day for the foreseeable future.
For the first time, it seems like he (and his agent) might actually see the CFL as a reasonable place to play football and not some unfortunate but necessary backwater stopover on his way to surefire NFL greatness.
Manziel worked out at the Texas A&M pro day on Tuesday, putting his football skills on display for the second time in less than a week. And while pundits pored over the tape and made bold proclamations on his state of professional readiness, it was what he said afterward about returning to the NFL that turned the usual media circus surrounding Manziel into a full, three-alarm frenzy (at least by Canadian standards.)
“If something pops up, it pops up,” Manziel said. “If not and I don’t get the opportunity to go back I’m going to go play in the CFL and things are going to be fine.”
Manziel and his agent, Erik Burkhardt, have been dancing around the idea of bringing Johnny’s talents north of the border for some time now but this was the first time Manziel addressed the CFL publicly as a legitimate option. And Burkhardt, who was last seen making outrageous demands and imposing meaningless deadlines on the Ticat negotiations, was even more complimentary towards the team and the league.
“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.”
Burkhardt said the NFL remains Manziel’s focus and while that’s rubbed some hardcore Canadian fans the wrong way, its true of almost every American player until they sign with a CFL club – and for some, that fixation never goes away. But Burkhardt says Manziel understands he can’t just show up in Hamilton and dominate – and that seems like progress, too.
“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,” Burkhardt said. “He’s got to learn the system get comfortable with teammates to be successful at that position.
“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.”
The next stop on the Manziel redemption tour is The Spring League, an unpaid showcase for players looking for a professional opportunity. He’ll report there on Wednesday (undoubtedly generating more news) and is set to play two games in April (which may break the internet.)
The Ticats are sending members of their front office to scout Manziel at The Spring League, while also keeping an eye out for other talent. Austin said last week that how he plays may be the deciding factor on his CFL future.
“It’s a very short stint for these exhibitions and they’ll be over very, very quickly,” Austin said. “You’ll probably see things move pretty quickly after that, in some direction. He’s doing well. He’s worked out, he’s been working out with NFL guys for some time now prior to going down to Texas. It’s all in line.”
There is certainly Manziel fatigue in many corners of the league. A prominent former Ticat expressed his exasperation at the attention a player who has never played a down on the big field is getting while established ones toil in virtual anonymity. But as tiring as it may be, Tuesday’s news cycle had a purpose: don’t sleep on Johnny coming to the CFL.