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A new Manziel: Browns praise QB

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The Sports Xchange

Johnny Manziel and Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine had a private conversation before the second-year quarterback returned for team workouts this week.

Manziel’s message was short, which is to the point: “Don’t judge me on my words. Judge me on my actions,” Manziel told Pettine.

Back with the team following more than 60 days in a rehab facility, Manziel is trying to put his rookie failures and partying past behind him. He is assured of nothing by Pettine and the Browns, who have a pair of first-round picks – No. 12 and No. 19 – and signed veteran Josh McCown while parting with 2014 starter Brian Hoyer.

Pettine said Tuesday that Manziel is “very much” in the team’s plans and called the ESPN report that the organization was “90 percent moved on from” the former Texas A&M quarterback something out of “the ridiculous category.”

The Browns’ quarterback history since the franchise returned to the league in 1999 reads more like a trail of tears – 22 different starters during that span. Manziel was drafted in the first round last year because of his unique playmaking ability, but in two starts as a rookie appeared shell-shocked and ended 2014 on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. He’ll now compete with McCown and Connor Shaw, another member of the Browns’ 2014 rookie class, who was praised by Pettine on Tuesday. Shaw started in Week 17 and despite some limitations, Pettine believes he has “the subtle it factor” to be a starter.

It’s still feasible that the Browns will draft a quarterback, sensing the potential answers on the present roster are not givens.

The Browns continue to be linked to Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who worked out after the college football season with new Cleveland quarterback coach Kevin O’Connell. O’Connell ran Mariota’s pro day workout in Eugene, Ore., on March 12.

Pettine popped a Cheshire cat grin Tuesday when asked if the Browns were open to dealing up to get Mariota.

“Sure,” he said, “Why not?”

“My opinion — and I talked about it last year — it’s all about value. It’s making sure that you’re getting value for the pick and you’re adding value to your roster and players that can help you in the short term and in the long term.”

Browns general manager Ray Farmer made three trades in the first round in his debut draft as a primary decision-maker last May, and wound up with Manziel, cornerback Justin Gilbert (eighth overall) and a spare first-round pick, the result of a trade with the Buffalo Bills that bumped the Browns from No. 4 overall to ninth. Farmer jumped back up one spot to acquire Gilbert.

Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, who had a one-on-one conversation with Manziel on Monday, said the Browns are seeing a different person this spring, a positive endorsement on the heels of captain Joe Thomas, the Browns’ left tackle, saying Manziel lost trust of teammates in the offseason.

Manziel was one of a group of players who hung around for extra work Monday, the first day of offseason workout. Haden said Manziel was at the facility three hours after the scheduled 8-Noon workday.


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