Browns bringing Manziel along slowly, McCown likely starter
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Johnny Manziel’s climb back might be steeper than he realized.
The Browns aren’t making any promises to Manziel, who recently spent 10 weeks in rehab following a miserable rookie season. Coach Mike Pettine said Friday that the team is taking things slowly with Manziel and that veteran Josh McCown will enter training camp as the presumptive starter this season.
The Browns want Manziel to focus on getting himself well, and they don’t want to put any other pressure on him. Manziel was discharged from rehab on April 11.
“I just think we’re too close to him getting out,” Pettine said after the Browns held their first practice with rookies and undrafted free agents. “I just think it’s too early to start expanding what we’re asking him to do and what we’re wanting him to get involved in. It’s baby steps here at this point.
“It’s a new system, he’s getting used to a new quarterback coach, a new coordinator and there’s plenty on his plate and there’s plenty of football between now and the start of the season for us to make an evaluation.”
The team has been pleased with Manziel’s progress since getting help for an undisclosed condition. Manziel spent 73 days at Caron, a facility in Pennsylvania that specializes in substance abuse. Manziel, who hasn’t spoken to the media since his rehab stint, has been trying to win back his teammates’ trust.
Pettine’s message to Manziel: keep it up and don’t worry about anything else.
“We want him essentially with horse blinders on,” Pettine said. “Focus on his job, getting up every day, perfecting his craft, whatever it is, homework that the quarterbacks have or come out and working on his footwork, his releases, that he’s much more concerned about himself than really anything else.”
Manziel will share snaps with Thad Lewis and Connor Shaw, one of 11 first-year players participating in this weekend’s camp.
Since coming out of rehab, Manziel has received public support from veterans Joe Thomas and Donte Whitner, who said they see a more disciplined, committed player. Pettine, too, has noticed a change in Manziel.
“I’ve been in the offensive meetings and when he’s been called upon, he has the right answer and he gets it out quick,” he said. “It seems to me, that he is dialed in and focused and all of that, but he’s done everything we’ve asked him so far.”
Pettine is confident McCown, who went just 1-10 last season as Tampa Bay’s starter, can be productive again. He went 3-2 with Chicago in 2013, when he replaced Jay Cutler.
“We’re comfortable and obviously we were comfortable because we brought him here and signed him, that we’re going to see more of the Josh McCown from Chicago than we did from the Josh McCown in Tampa,” Pettine said.
NOTES: Pettine faced Tom Brady several times as a defensive coordinator and has immense respect for New England’s quarterback. However, he said he won’t feel the same way about Brady if he had a role in deflating footballs. “Nothing is surprising,” Pettine said. “I know what was put out there but he’s one of the best ever and it would be a shame to tarnish that and we’ll see how it plays out. I’ve always had a lot of respect for him, but also I lose a lot of respect for people who cheat.” ... Rookie WR Vince Mayle, a fourth-round draft pick, is unable to catch after breaking his right thumb in the Senior Bowl. ... Pettine said the Browns considered picking LSU defensive end La’el Collins, whose name surfaced before the draft in a shooting investigation. “Nobody felt comfortable making the pick.”