BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Johnny Manziel didn’t like being punished for partying. He didn’t agree with being benched and isn’t happy it cost him the spotlight of a Monday night game.
But now that his punishment’s over, Manziel says he wants to make the most of his new chance to start.
And if he doesn’t behave, it may be Johnny Football’s last chance with the Browns.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since being demoted last month for off-field behavior, Manziel didn’t apologize for his actions, offered no promises and said he feels fortunate to be back in the starting lineup this week against San Francisco.
“I was forced to learn a hard lesson,” he said. “I had to learn the hard way and I’m lucky to be back in the position that I’m in and being the starter again, so I’m definitely not taking that lightly. That’s for sure.”
Browns coach Mike Pettine punished Manziel after a video surfaced of the polarizing and popular QB holding a champagne bottle and rapping profane lyrics at a club in Austin, Texas. Manziel had promised the Browns he wouldn’t be a distraction during the team’s bye week and then became one on social media sites.
Manziel called the situation “a lapse in judgment” and said he learned his lesson.
“Obviously, there’s a way to conduct yourself that 31 other guys in the league do each and every week,” he said. “You have to follow that example and realize that this is a very prestigious situation that I’m in being a starting quarterback in the NFL, so I have to take pride in that and act accordingly.”
He had better. Pettine warned Wednesday that the team won’t stand any more off-field shenanigans.
“It would be hard for me to sit here and say, ‘We have a zero-tolerance policy,’” Pettine said. “But if something were to occur, I could imagine that the repercussions would be harsh.”
As for his two-game benching, the 23-year-old Manziel made it clear he thought the penalty was excessive.
“In coach Pettine’s mind, he thought that was necessary to get the harsh point across to me,” Manziel said. “Did I like it? No. Did I have to sit there with a bad taste in my mouth and accept the consequences for my actions? Sure. I’m just sitting here today very thankful to be back in this role and be back in front of these guys and being in the huddle calling plays again and trying to go out and salvage what’s left of this season and take some pride in these last four games.”
Manziel’s start on Sunday will be his first since he passed for a career-high 372 yards against Pittsburgh on Nov. 15. He was named Cleveland’s starter for the final six games before partying away the opportunity.
Now he has four games to show how far he’s progressed — to spark a season already up in flames for Cleveland and help the Browns decide whether he can be their future quarterback.
“It comes down to pride,” Manziel said. “If people have pride in what they do and their craft. I’m completely bunkered in for these last four weeks and will come in every day and give every ounce of energy to try to win these last four games.”
Pettine acknowledged for the first time that the Browns did not understand the depths of Manziel’s problems before they drafted the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner last year. He entered the NFL with a reputation for enjoying nightlife and spent 10-plus weeks in a rehab facility last winter for an unspecified condition.
The team did its usual background check on Manziel, but Pettine said were some things the Browns didn’t uncover.
“I don’t think we anticipated that his problems, his issues, maybe how deep-rooted they were, the extent of it,” Pettine said. “If you sat in our draft meetings and listened to the background reports on a lot of our guys and you took guys off the board based on that, there would be about five or six magnets left over to pick from.
“You have to decide how much of this is maturity? Was it early in his college year? Is it continuing? You do as much research as you can,” he said. “That’s why the draft is hit or miss with so many guys just because of how impossible it is to predict those things as they move forward.”
Pettine said he spoke on Tuesday with Manziel about the team’s expectations going forward.
“I’m a big believer in ‘show me, don’t tell me,’” Pettine said.