Sunday, June 29, 2014

Time to get serious 

All kinds of advice for Johnny Manziel are pouring in from around the globe.

It’s truly amazing how many people care about what the Browns’ rookie quarterback does off the football field.

He hasn’t taken one meaningful National Football League snap and yet the likes of Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Joe Namath and Emmitt Smith, as well as Brady Quinn and Akili Smith (how in the world did they get into the mix?) and a multitude of others have stepped forth and advised Manziel to slow down.

Of course, the 21-year-old kid touches the dampness behind his ears and tells everyone to butt out. “It’s my life and I’ll lead it any way I want” is pretty much his standard response to those who warn him to rein it in.

He’s right, of course. How many of us at 21 – and yes, I know he’s making nice money and is different than the average 21-year-old – didn’t know any better and felt as though we were invincible?

It’s obvious Manziel loves the high life. That’s his personality. He likes being the center of attention and fans who see him in public tend to gravitate toward him.

The attention he gets does not rile his teammates as much as when the media badgers them, seeking a reaction to their quarterback’s behavior off the field.

Right now, the kid’s biggest enemy is the cell phone. Not his; those that belong to everyone else. Because A. G. Bell’s invention is now capable of doing just about anything short of going to the bathroom, you can become a YouTube celebrity overnight.

Manziel, by the very nature of who he is, is a lightning rod. He attracts people no matter where he goes. And he is just naïve enough to permit fans to take pictures and/or video no matter what he is doing.

Unfortunately, the fun-loving kid is dangerously close to embarrassing himself and, worse, his employer. He has yet to fully realize that when he now goes out in public, he represents the Cleveland Browns. His behavior is a direct reflection.

It has reached the point where the guy who signs his paychecks has basically told his staff to sit down and have a chat with Manziel, who doesn’t “think I’m doing anything wrong.” According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, Jimmy Haslam III wants his quarterback to know about the pitfalls of today’s social media and “tone it down.”

It’s no secret Manziel will be extremely disappointed if he does not unseat Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback by the season opener in Pittsburgh. To do so means he would have to concentrate almost solely on the playbook.

And once training camp starts in late July, his off-the-field fun will be curtailed dramatically. Fans and the media will discover soon enough just how dedicated he is (or isn't) toward becoming a professional football player.

If he is serious about supplanting Hoyer, we very well could see a side of Manziel that has been thrust into the background by the need to have as much fun as possible before getting serious.

There comes a time in a young person’s life when the light goes on; when the stark reality of having done something wrong is a jolting reminder that some lessons are learned the hard way.

Manziel must know by now that he is a target. He walks around with a bull’s-eye on his back. He hasn’t hurt or embarrassed anyone yet and the Browns appear to be making every effort to make certain it stays that way. But it sure looks as though he’s approaching that light switch. 

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