NFL

NFL AM: Browns Start Austin Davis Over Johnny Manziel

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Browns announce Austin Davis will start Sunday:

Johnny Manziel lost his opportunity to be the starter for the remainder of the season last week after lying to the team about a video and photos that emerged of Manziel partying during the Browns bye week. Initially the decision seemed questionable, as this wasn’t the first time the Browns knew of Manziel drinking this year, but after it was revealed that the second-year quarterback lied to the Browns, it was clear they made the only decision they could.

After committing to Manziel for the rest of the season, the team changed course and handed the job back to veteran Josh McCown. When McCown was lost for the season with a broken collarbone he suffered on Monday night, the question changed.

The Browns felt like they could justify sitting Manziel behind McCown, but would they hold tough on their demotion of Manziel for Austin Davis?

The answer came Wednesday, and it was a less than resounding, “Yes,” for now.

Browns head coach Mike Pettine announced Wednesday that Davis had done enough in relief of McCown during the team’s loss on Monday Night Football to get the start for this upcoming Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“Austin took advantage of his opportunity on Monday night,” Pettine said in an article on ClevelandBrowns.com. “He was prepared, played well and put us in position to win. He’s been great in the quarterback room all season and he has earned the right to start on Sunday. We expect him to play well.”

Pettine said Davis would go Sunday, but wouldn’t say he would remain under center for the remainder of the season.

“I talked to the quarterbacks this morning and I said given where we are, what our circumstances are, it’s safe to say now that this is a weekly thing,” said Pettine. “The decision was made, it’s Austin for this week and I’m not going to go beyond that.”

But Pettine did go beyond that. While Davis will start Sunday, Pettine made it clear that the team wants to see more of Manziel.

“We’ll revisit this,” Pettine said. “These are two players that we both want to see play is the bottom line. I don’t want to declare, ‘hey, this is what it’s going to be here on out.’ These are two young quarterbacks that have upside and we want to see what that upside is. So Austin’s the guy for this week.”

The issue is how, when and whether Manziel can re-earn the trust of Pettine and Browns’ brass after foolishly lying to the team after being named starter once before.

With all due respect to Davis, Manziel is the player who could get hot down the stretch and change the offseason plan in Cleveland. Manziel is the player who could convince the Browns to focus on other areas of need during the offseason to give him one more shot to prove he belongs in this league. Manziel is the player who could just save Pettine’s job, and for that reason, it’s still Manziel who makes the most sense for the remainder of the season.

Key Patriots returning to practice:

For much of the season the NFL looked like the New England Patriots, and everyone else. The Patriots got off to an 8-0 start, more than often making it look very easy. However injuries across the offensive line, and all over the roster took their toll, causing the New England to need a gift from the New York Giants, and having to hold on for dear life against the Buffalo Bills to get to 10-0.

Sunday night, the Denver Broncos handed the Patriots their first loss of the season, and the injuries continued to mount as Rob Gronkowski left the game with a bruised knee. Fortunately for New England, Gronk isn’t expected to miss more than a game or two.

The news got considerably better for the Patriots as Danny Amendola and linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins all returned to practice on a limited basis.

Amendola’s return would be huge for Tom Brady, who is without his two favorite targets in Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. It was speculated that Amendola may return against Denver on Sunday night, but the Patriots ended up leaving the wide receiver inactive. With last Sunday night being a possibility for Amendola, it’s likely he’ll be back on the field this Sunday when the Patriots host the Philadelphia Eagles.

The defense has been very good, but the Patriots would still be thrilled to welcome back athletic linebacker Collins, who has missed three games with an undisclosed illness, and Hightower who has missed time with a knee.

The Patriots are getting healthier, and they’ll eventually get Gronkowski back, and could even see Edelman in the playoffs. If they get everyone back, they’ll be as dangerous as anyone come January, but if the injuries continue to mount, it might become too much, even for Brady and Bill Belichick.

Ryan Mallett works out for the Ravens:

Just in case Baltimore Ravens fans had any delusions that this was anything but a lost season in Baltimore, the team sent that message loud and clear on Wednesday when the team worked out former Patriots and Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett.

Mallett was released by Houston after being late for practices, missing a team flight, and generally acting like a child when not getting his way.

Mallett openly questioned the decision when sat in favor of Brian Hoyer, and even looked disinterested on the sidelines at times when backing up Hoyer.

With Joe Flacco down for the season with a torn ACL, Mallett would serve as insurance for a Ravens team down to the ancient Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. By those standards, Mallett is pretty talented.

Mallett’s physical ability will get him another opportunity whether it’s in Baltimore or elsewhere, but the question will remain if he can take the responsibility seriously enough to make the most of it. Hopefully getting the ax in Houston opened the young quarterback’s eyes, and he’ll really make the most of his next opportunity, because if he doesn’t, it will be his last.


About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.