Johnny Manziel: the CFL ‘no slouch league’

Johnny Manziel says he doesn’t expect a starting job to be handed to him if he ends up coming to the CFL this season.

The quarterback spoke to TSN’s Dave Naylor on Wednesday and said he’s mentally ready to play in Canada if he can’t find a job in the NFL.

“I’ve been humbled in the process as far as what’s happened to me the last two years. I went from a nobody to the Heisman Trophy to the very bottom as low as I can get in my life. I know and I realize and I am very, very aware that I don’t want anything handed to me,” he said. “If I do decide to go to the CFL, I’m not expecting or wanting anyone to just hand me a starting job. I realize there’s going to be growing pains, there’s going to be learning pains and there’s going to be work to get where I want to be. I realize what situation I put myself in, how hard it’s going to be. Just because I have the opportunity to play in Canada doesn’t mean it should be handed to me and I don’t want it to be. I want to work and earn everything that I have coming my way.”

Manziel said he began following the CFL more closely last season and has spoken to a number of current and former players.

“I do have friends that played up there: Brandon Zylstra, Bryant Mitchell, Derel Walker. Jeff Fuller is another guy that played with me at A&M that’s in Toronto. I watched the Grey Cup. Slowly but surely as of last year I started watching a little bit more because it was looking like more of a reality,” he said.

“I have a lot of respect for that league. I’ve talked to all my boys that have been up there. It’s no slouch league. It’s no joke. Maybe… it’s not the NFL obviously. I think anybody around Canada, anybody around the United States would obviously agree with that. But at the same time, it’s no slouch or gimmick league either. It’s a high enough level where I can go in, if I do decide to do that, compete in and have fun doing it.”

Manziel seemed to be aware that the letter imposed by his agent Erik Burkhardt, which set a hard deadline of Jan. 31 to get a deal done and outlined extravagant salary expectations, rubbed some people the wrong way. He said that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats organization, including vice-president of football operations Kent Austin and head coach June Junes, have been very accommodating.

“I know a lot was made of everything that happened with the deadline and things like that but everything is going to work itself out for the better in due time,” Manziel said.  “Even with the deadline, Kent and them understood, Coach Jones understood what it was, that this league and what I’m doing here was another opportunity for me which is what we said in the letter. It was no slap in the face, I hope it wasn’t taken that way.”

Manziel played at Texas A&M when Jones was the head coach at SMU so the two knew each other before this process began.

“A guy that recruited me, a guy that I played against and the guy that I’ve met with since he’s been in Hamilton. I got a chance to work out for him I thought it was a good day. I feel like I’m light years beyond what I was, I’ve been doing nothing but working out since I met with those guys and since they came to California,” Manziel said. “It’s cool to have a couple of former coaches that are up there in the league that I’m familiar with, coach Sherman obviously being in Montreal.”

Manziel spoke to Naylor after reporting to The Spring League, an exhibition of unpaid players looking for an opportunity in pro football. He’ll play in two games starting April 7 after which he’ll be looking to sign with an NFL team. As for making a decision on the CFL…

“I don’t exactly know the timetable. I know that when we get to a situation that feels right, we’ll both be on top of the daily with the right people that make those decisions,” Manziel said. “It will be a very fluid situation.”