Does the NFL Care About Johnny Manziel's #ComebackSZN?

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterFebruary 16, 2018

FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2015, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel speaks with media members following the team's 30-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in an NFL football game in Seattle. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton shot down a report that his team had interest in troubled quarterback Johnny Manziel. They did meet during Super Bowl week, but Payton called the report the team was considering adding Manziel
Scott Eklund/Associated Press

It was just two years ago that Johnny Manziel was accused of domestic violence. 

"He grabbed me by my hair and threw me back into the car and got back in himself," his ex-girlfriend, Colleen Crowley, reportedly told police. "He hit me with his open hand on my left ear for jumping out of the car. I realized immediately that I could not hear out of that ear, and I still cannot today, two days later."

Details of what occurred were first reported by WFAA in Dallas.

Then, on New Year's Eve of 2016, Manziel mocked Crowley on his Snapchat accountaccording to TMZ. They were both at a Miami club called LIV.

"She knows LIV on Sunday is church!" Manziel wrote. "Pfff surprised she was even able to get in without me."

Again, the post was just a year ago.

Now, Manziel has embarked on a tour to change how NFL teams, and the public, view him.

Manziel has opened up in interviews for morning TV and podcasts, presenting a more sanitized version of himself.

He's also announced he has joined the Spring League, a three-week scouting event in Austin, Texas, with players split into four teams that will play two games apiece. Those games will be broadcast on Turner Sports' streaming service. To Manziel, it's a way to vault back into football and allow the NFL to see him in a different light. To front office types around the NFL, it's a way to assess whether this comeback attempt is real. Is he sincere in his desire to be a professional and straighten out his life, or is this another case in which Manziel says the right things but does the wrong ones?

NFL officials are intrigued, and they'll be watching—not so much for what he does on the field, but how he conducts himself off of it. Will he study? Will his behavior change? Will he approach the job the way true pros in the NFL like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson do?

For now, however, let’s just say the NFL is highly skeptical of Manziel. Few in the league, it seems, believe anything he says.

Johnny Manziel saw his domestic violence charges dismissed after he attended a course on anger management and served on a panel about victims of domestic violence.
Johnny Manziel saw his domestic violence charges dismissed after he attended a course on anger management and served on a panel about victims of domestic violence.Smiley N. Pool/Associated Press

Now, strange things do happen in the NFL. Is it possible some team sees Manziel in the Spring League and then takes a chance? Sure. The NFL has a long history of giving alleged abusers and others second chances.

NFL rosters expand from 53 to 90 in the offseason. The Spring League runs from March 28 to April 15. Maybe if Manziel does well in the league, and stays out of trouble, a team takes a shot to see if he's really changed by putting him on its offseason roster and seeing what happens.

But so far, there's no interest in doing that. There's too much risk.

Manziel's history is thick with false hope and unfulfilled promise. Sports Illustrated detailed some of Manziel's transgressions, including an arrest for fighting while at Texas A&M and persistent partying.

And there remains great doubt that Manziel can play at the NFL level. He showed both a lack of effort in the classroom and a remarkable lack of consistent physical ability on the field.

To be fair, Manziel said in an interview Monday with ABC News' T.J. Holmes that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about a year ago. And as nasty, cutthroat and ugly as professional football can be, there's a better understanding of the ravages of mental illness and some genuine sympathy from teams about what Manziel has been going through.

That doesn't change the lack of interest, or trust, in Manziel that I've heard from at least a half-dozen teams. At least for now.

"He's not believable," one NFC team executive said.

Another NFC team exec said Manziel "burned every bridge possible."

It was difficult to watch Manziel's interview and not recall how I once wrote about his Eddie Haskell phenomenon, about how what he says and what he does are two different things.

Manziel went 2-6 in eight starts with the Browns from 2014-15.
Manziel went 2-6 in eight starts with the Browns from 2014-15.Ed Zurga/Associated Press

"I had a sense of entitlement about what I had accomplished at the age that I'd accomplished it," Manziel told Holmes.

Maybe he's changed. Maybe his issues are related to mental illness and excessive use of alcohol and drugs.

The problem for Manziel is NFL executives have seen this Manziel before and, for now, they're not convinced.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.


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