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Browns QB Johnny Manziel Is Showing Great Maturity On And Off The Field

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“Try not to take a sack Johnny!”

That, among numerous other things not fit for print is what was yelled at second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel from the crowd of Buffalo Bills fans recently at a combined training camp practice between the Bills and Cleveland Browns.

After that comment came this one.

“My six-year old daughter is taller than you,” muttered by the same individual.

And so on and so on the negative commentary continued.

The not-so-witty voice from the crowd echoed endlessly as the second-year quarterback is trying to make amends for his rookie blunders.

Combined, roughly 200 hundred players were working on the two practice fields at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. Yet no player received more attention than Manziel resulting in positive or negative reactions.

“(It) absolutely plays a part to hear these things,” said Robert Price of Elite Minds, who has worked with numerous professional athletes and exclusively with several different NFL teams with his sports psychology consulting service.

Speaking exclusively to FootballInsiders.com, Price said there is a direct connection in how Manziel is going to channel those comments.

“Ultimately he’s in control what he thinks,” said Price regarding what he refers to as “negative barbing.”

In the Cleveland Browns second pre-season game, Manziel had his best performance as a professional quarterback. It was against the Buffalo Bills second- and third-string players, but Manziel did look the part and displayed a lot of maturity afterwards, especially during the post-game press conference.

When asked about the starting quarterback job, he quickly responded, “Yeah, I’m just leaving that up to Coach (Mike) Pettine.”

The slathering of heckling fans at practice is par for course in the everyday life of Manziel and truth be told, nobody knows how he channels his emotions, but it is clear that his time in rehab earlier this year has helped him tremendously.

Following his departure from rehab, he released this statement:

I would like to thank my family, friends, the Browns organization, my teammates and Browns fans everywhere, for your patience, understanding, and support during my stay at Caron.

The doctors and staff have been amazing and what I’ve learned in the last couple of months has been tremendous. I owe private apologies to a lot of people that I disappointed but a very public one to the Browns organization and the fans that I let down.”

It is possible that his time spent in rehab is helping “Johnny Football” bridge the gap between the naysayers and his success.

Without question, Manziel has his supporters and his distracters.

Also without question, I’ve been one of the harshest critics of Manziel. Stemming strictly from an NFL evaluation standpoint that requires more than just athleticism to survive.   

It occurred to me recently at Bills camp the monstrous disadvantages of succeeding for Manziel compared to many other players.

“His point (level of criticism) has to be even further than others,” said Price.

He then brought up some experiences with several PGA golfers he’s worked privately with dealing with the same issues.

“The fans are so up close in golf it makes for interaction between fan and athlete very close,” said the Doctor.

Manziel is somewhat guarded from how close fans can get to him, but the voices can be heard from a significant distance.

“I’m happy to be out there,” said Manziel, and he added, “just happy to be getting a lot of reps.”

It was only one interview and Manziel has always been able to play nice at the most critical moments before revealing his true colors. However, in his last post-game interview. Manziel appeared relaxed and more mature. It was natural, not staged.

He learned the hard way that the antics and lifestyle he lived at College Station, Texas, (the location of Texas A&M) were not going to translate smoothly into the formula of being a professional quarterback in the NFL.

Against the Bills, Manziel completed 9 of 12 passes, for 112 yards and touchdown before Cleveland’s final drive with fewer than two minutes to go, and then he began forcing throws. Manziel added one more completion and six incompletions with the final drive concluded.

Afterwards, he finally enjoyed a press conference void of pessimistic and unfavorable questions that were replaced with questions about succeeding and progression.

His commitment and dedication to playing quarterback is finally being realized for both Cleveland and Manziel himself. It could unleash a positive cascading effect on his young career. He is seeing first-hand the validation of his career and efforts by doing things the right way.

“If he can do that (tune out the bad voices) he’ll find success for himself,” said Price.

Add in doing things the right way and Cleveland might possibly have the franchise quarterback they have been searching for since Bernie Kosar last took a snap under center for the team.

What was the biggest change in his game?

After he scored his first pre-season touchdown against the Washington Redskins, where he scampered 12-yards for the score Manziel did the near unthinkable; He did not gesture to the crowd with his self vindicating “Money Manziel” hand gesture.

Manziel instead did a remarkable job of mirroring Barry Sanders touchdown celebration by simply handing the ball to the referee and heading towards the sideline. It is how you react in the heat of the ‘moment’ and his reaction was that of a true professional.

It is encouraging for the game of football and for Manziel to see the professionalism begin to emerge.

Considering he has more distracters (arguably) than any of player in the National Football League, it is nice to see Manziel have a spotlight on him for doing things the right way.

Plenty of times he has rewarded the crowd and himself with his famous hand gesture, perhaps we should give him one back?

Two thumbs up!


About Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte is an NFL writer for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade. His background includes being staff for the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game as a talent evaluator for player personnel along with an internship scouting with the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the Canadian Football League. Bo’s draft background includes working for the NFL Draft Bible and currently owns and operates College2Pro.com. He has done radio spots on NBC, Fox Sports and ESPN and their affiliates in different markets around the country. Bo covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers along with other colleges in the northeast.