Johnny Manziel was banned from the CFL after missing required meetings with people tasked to help him stay on the straight and narrow – a violation of the agreement set out by the league, per sources.
Conditions were set and Manziel failed to meet them. Manziel was released by the Montreal Alouettes on Wednesday as ordered by the CFL, which established conditions when it agreed to allow the quarterback to sign a contract with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last spring. Though those conditions were never publicly released, they included meeting with medical and mental heath professionals while following his prescribed treatment plan for bipolar disorder.
According to sources, when the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner was negotiating his contract with the Ticats last spring, Manziel wanted the ability to take a shot at the NFL after one CFL season. The league did not have an option year window in place at the time – it was re-added last August – and would not allow the stipulation into his contract.
But Manziel knew that by not going to mandatory doctors visits, required lithium tests or meeting a therapist once a week – conditions of the agreement he revealed to USA Today last June – would potentially force the CFL to void it. Essentially, Manziel had an out clause if he wanted it.
The league offered Manziel the chance to rectify the breach, but the 26-year-old was unwilling to proceed. Alouettes general manager Kavis Reed would have kept Manziel on the roster if the league had not intervened.
Reed said the Alouettes knew being forced to release Manziel was a possibility prior to the opening of CFL free agency on Feb. 12. Manziel sounded like he was a free man when discussing potentially playing in the Alliance of American Football or Xtreme Football League on his Comeback SZN podcast which was put out the same day.
“I don’t know exactly what my exact steps will be for the next years coming up, but at least there’s a lot of options,” Manziel said.
“Me and E.B. [agent Erik Burkhardt] are fully committed to playing ball and trying to get into the best situation possible and that’s what it’s all about.”
Montreal or the Alouettes weren’t referenced by Manziel on the episode. That seemed as though Manziel felt he was able to explore other opportunities and the league made it official by severing the agreement based on the infractions.
If Manziel disagreed with the league’s decision, he likely would have voiced his displeasure. Burkhardt went public with the salary demand when discussing the original contract and Manziel said he was frustrated by a lack of playing time during a stretch last season when Antonio Pipkin was starting for Montreal. But Manziel took a different approach after severing ties with the CFL just a day before his $75,000 roster bonus was due.
I want to thank Coach Sherman, my teammates, and the CFL fans. My time there reestablished my love for the game of football and the work that goes into it. I look forward to exploring new options within the United States.
— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) February 27, 2019
Reed had been fighting the ruling, likely because of the trade assets given to acquire Manziel. But league sources believe Alouettes head coach Mike Sherman was pushing for the trade and ownership wanted Manziel to create a buzz.
Ultimately, Manziel knew how to secure his release. The infractions are minor enough that it likely won’t raise major concerns as Manziel tries to secure another job, but sufficient to be set free.