Johnny Manziel showed flashes of the vintage playmaking ability that helped him earn the Heisman Trophy and catch the attention of NFL evaluators on Friday night in his preseason debut in the CFL.
Manziel, a flameout as a first-round pick with the Cleveland Browns because of admitted drug and alcohol abuse, played 22 snaps in five possessions of a 36-18 loss just two weeks after signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
He completed 9 of his 12 pass attempts, including a 21-yarder to Damarr Aultman on a bootleg to his right. He was also sacked twice resulting in a change of possession, and said he had to hear a good amount of trash talk.
“It was just part of it,” Manziel said after the game. “I was trying to help a guy up out of the pile. He wants to say some foul stuff. Listen, I’m not here to be pushed over. You can come at me because my name is in the paper or because my name is on TV. You can come at me. I’m not backing down. I’m here for a reason. I’m here to play ball and I’m not going to be treated like (expletive). So, it is what it is. It’s football. People talk a little bit out there. But just know that I’m not backing down from anybody.”
Hamilton head coach June Jones said the offense used with Manziel under center was a remedial version of his overall scheme, the one employed with starter Jeremiah Masoli under center. Jones said two days before the game that Manziel would be one of the team’s backup quarterbacks, along with former Oregon starter Vernon Adams.
It’s unlikely given the preseason atmosphere Jones is ready to change his depth chart, especially considering his comments prior to the game.
“Until something creates for me to take him out of there, I would say he’ll be our starter for the whole year, hopefully, and win the Grey Cup,” Jones said of Masoli.
Masoli was intercepted twice and went 8 of 13 for 115 yards against Toronto on Friday.
Manziel said he’s always out to exceed expectations.
“It was good to get out there, feel the speed, see the zone coverages,” Manziel said of what he described as an easy transition to a new country.
“I’m here for a reason. I’m here to compete for a reason. I want to play and do whatever capacity to help this team win.”
Last season for Hamilton, Masoli completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,177 yards, 15 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 12 games. He also ran for 446 yards and four touchdowns.
Hamilton re-signed Masoli to a two-year contract through 2019 in January.
—Field Level Media