Manziel takes blow to the head, appears woozy but stays in game in second CFL start

The good news is that Johnny Manziel’s second Canadian Football League start went far better than his first. The bad news is that his Montreal Alouettes lost yet again, and the concerning news is that the former Cleveland Browns quarterback took what appeared to be a hard shot to the head in the 24-17 defeat to the Ottawa Redblacks on Saturday evening.

Equally concerning, to many observers, is that Manziel stayed in the game, given that he may have suffered a concussion. The hit occurred as he reached the goal line on a 17-yard, third-quarter scramble; he fumbled the ball, and while it was recovered for an Alouettes touchdown, Manziel appeared woozy as he was helped to his feet and ran off the field.

“Ran into a brick wall,” Manziel said of the play after the game. “That defence was fast, that defence was big and aggressive. They hit hard, they’re quick.

“But like I told these guys, you’re not going to take me out like that.”

For the game, Manziel completed 16 of 26 passes for 168 yards, with no touchdown passes or interceptions, adding three rushes for 36 yards, including the play that resulted in the touchdown. Statistically, that represented a major improvement over the previous week’s effort, in which he made his first start in the CFL and in any meaningful professional game since December 2015, when he was with Cleveland.

In that performance, Manziel threw four interceptions in the first half, finishing with 11 completions on 20 attempts for 104 yards and no touchdowns, as Montreal was trounced, 50-11, by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The rough outing could be explained, in part, not only by the fact that Manziel hadn’t started a game in so long but also by the fact that he had been just traded to the Alouettes by the Ticats and had few practices with his new team. Still, Montreal coach Mike Sherman said then that his new quarterback needed to be “smart with the football.”

After Saturday’s loss, the Alouettes’ seventh in eight games this season and 18th in 19 games going back to 2017, Sherman offered some praise for Manziel. “I thought he came in and threw the ball well, made some really good decisions,” said Sherman, who recruited Manziel to Texas A&M when the former was head coach there. “I thought he did a good job and he’d just be better and better.”

“It sucks to lose the game, and I’m not sitting here saying I’m happy with the outcome of the game, but as far as improvement, we’re close,” Manziel said. “We’re a lot closer than we were a week ago, and if we continue to make those strides, we’ll be OK.”

Manziel asserted that he wanted to be “fighting with these guys,” and to be “their quarterback and the quarterback of this team in this city.” Showing a welt on his chin after the game, he told reporters, “I’ve been sitting out for a long time and waiting for another opportunity.

“It sucks when you don’t see results. It’s hard when you don’t see results. But at the end of the day when you have faith in the guy to the left or right of you, your brothers on this team, we’ll be OK.”

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