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Browns rookie QB Johnny Manziel is already ahead of the curve

Jun 05, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



The Morning Kickoff …

Nine items worthy of note

1. Manziel Mania, part 1: I haven’t seen a Browns player come in as a rookie and be so adept -- so ridiculously flawless -- in front of the media and a crowd as Johnny Manziel. I don’t mean just in the expansion era (since 1999). I mean ever. On Wednesday, he took the lead among Browns rookie players appearing at Grindstone Elementary School in Berea and interacted with the star-struck kids, putting them at ease with questions about their upcoming summer vacations. In every interview since he has been drafted, Manziel has fielded questions with aplomb, never stumbling. This has nothing to do with how he’ll play on the field, of course. Or does it? In the short time Manziel has been a Brown, it is easy to see why teammates would follow him. Manziel is a natural leader.

2. Manziel Mania, part 2: The Browns have had approximately 4,000 new season ticket sales since Manziel was drafted on May 8. His No. 2 jersey is the top seller among all NFL rookies and is certainly outpacing any other NFL “backup” quarterback. On Wednesday, Browns President Alec Scheiner deflected a question about Manziel’s impact on the club’s business operation. “Some players have higher profiles than others,” Scheiner said. “But for the most part, if we don’t win, our business won’t be very good. And if we win, our business will be very good.”

3. Training camp in transition: Scheiner said there is a possibility the club will hold its annual Family Night during training camp at another site as renovations to FirstEnergy Stadium are ongoing. As far as moving camp in 2015 away from the club’s facility in Berea, Scheiner said, “We’ll look into everything for next year. We haven’t made any decisions. We’ll look at everything.”

4. An interesting word choice: In the club’s official press release promoting its First and Ten volunteerism initiative, there was a quote attributed to Dee Haslam and she was identified as “Browns owner and President of the Cleveland Browns Foundation.”

5. QB competition wide open: In an “On the Clock” interview on the Hey Tony show on ESPN 850 WKNR, Browns coach Mike Pettine said this about the competition between Brian Hoyer and Manziel: “I’ve said all along it’s going to be an open competition. I would say Brian Hoyer certainly has a head start at this point, but it’s not a lead that I would say is insurmountable. We’re going to make sure we put both of them in situations where it gives us the opportunity to fairly compare them and decide who gives us the best chance to win.

6. A surprise answer: I posed this fill-in-the-blank statement to Pettine: “When all is said and done, the defensive player who will have the biggest impact on the 2014 season will be … " His answer: “Jabaal Sheard. Got big plans for him. He caught my eye watching the tape from year ago and I think we’re going to do a good job of putting him in some positions where he can be successful and take advantage of his skill set.” This sentiment would seem to cement 2013 No. 1 pick Barkevious Mingo as a situational role player heading into his second training camp.

7. Not this year: The NFL still has not named the team featured in the 2014 installment of the popular “Hard Knocks” series on HBO. The Browns were invited and said, “No, thanks.” Under rules implemented by the NFL last year, teams can be exempt from participating in Hard Knocks under any of three conditions: 1. A first-year head coach, 2. A playoff berth in the past two seasons, or 3. An appearance on Hard Knocks in the past 10 years. The Browns were exempt because of Pettine being in his first season, but they could have accepted an invitation. If an exempt team doesn’t volunteer, a team can be chosen by the league from those not meeting exemptions. Those possibilities include the Bills, Steelers, Jaguars, Raiders, Giants, Bears, Rams and Cardinals.

8. Uh, oh, Bitonio: Rookie guard Joel Bitonio, who figures prominently in the team’s run-blocking plans this season, was the only rookie missing from the appearance at Grindstone Elementary on Wednesday. Bitonio suffered an injury to his left ankle at Tuesday’s OTA practice when he appeared to get his left foot entangled on a running play. Bitonio had the ankle examined on the field and then walked off with a trainer.

9. One final Manziel note: Jordan Cameron was the recipient of the Manziel bootleg pass, across the field, from sideline to sideline, near the end of Tuesday’s OTA session. Cameron said of the rookie QB: “He’s an exciting guy. He’ll make plays out of nothing. I know guys reacted. That’s what he does, he makes people react. He brings a lot of energy. That’s his game. It’s not a bad thing to have energy and excitement and people riled up about a guy coming to your team. I think any attention is good attention. Well, not all, but … What he brings, the excitement and playmaking ability, that’s great attention to our team and the city and the fans.”


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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