BEREA — Johnny Football became more than Johnny Manziel could handle.
“It just overtook who I was as a person,” the Browns quarterback said Wednesday.
Speaking to the media for the first time since spending 10 weeks in a rehab facility, the polarizing Manziel said he’s hoping to move past a regrettable chapter in his life. While he didn’t divulge the reasons for his stay in a Pennsylvania substance-abuse facility, Manziel acknowledged he got caught up trying to live up to a persona he helped create.
“I think at times Johnny Football probably took over me a little bit and I bought into that,” Manziel said following the team’s second mandatory mini-camp practice. “I didn’t do my best to hush things down, push down the hype. At times I welcomed it with immaturity and just accepted that a little bit — and that’s my fault.”
One of the changes the former Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M intends to make is scrapping his trademark money sign, when he rubs his fingers together after a big play.
“The money sign will not be back,” he said. “I will not be making it out there.”
Manziel opened his remarks by thanking reporters for respecting his privacy and he acknowledged Browns coach Mike Pettine, owner Jimmy Haslam and others with the Browns who “helped me out through a difficult time.”
The 22-year-old didn’t duck any questions and he reiterated that he was the one responsible for “a disaster” of a rookie season in the NFL.
“At the end of the day, everything that happened last year is not on anybody else but myself,” said Manziel, who made two starts last season. “I guess I wasn’t prepared to handle the type of spotlight that I got, and all the hype that came with it.”
Manziel will enter training camp next month in the same place he was last summer — as a backup. He’s now behind Josh McCown on Cleveland’s depth chart, and there’s no guarantee Manziel will ever become a starter.
But while his future on the field remains cloudy, Manziel said he’s taking the necessary steps in his personal life to be a better, more dependable professional.
He recently moved from his downtown Cleveland apartment to a golf community on the city’s west side. It’s one of the changes he’s made to resist any temptations and improve his image as a spoiled party kid.
“I think I’ve done a good job throughout this offseason of really trying to get back to my roots and who I really am as a person,” he said.
Manziel regrets being a distraction last season, when he became a social media phenomenon as photos of him in Las Vegas or floating in a pool while swigging champagne went viral. There were other issues, including a scrape with a fan in his hotel lobby and a fine for oversleeping and missing treatment after he was injured.
Looking back, Manziel wishes he would have acted differently. He’s been selfish, irresponsible — not a good teammate.
“I feel bad about that throughout the last months of my life, really thinking back and seeing how much of my life outside of this field and outside of this locker room was documented,” he said. “It’s not fair for Joe Haden to be having to answer questions about me every day. It’s not fair for Joe Thomas and all these guys to just continue to have questions asked about me. I don’t think that’s fair at all and I don’t want that on them.”
Manziel is doing all he can to look ahead, what’s behind him is too painful, too embarrassing.
“I’m trying to close that chapter in my life — not one that I’m very proud of,” he said.
Manziel insists his priorities are in order. He claims to be more focused and dedicated to his craft. He’s talked a good game before, but this time he says he intends to match his intentions.
“Actions speak way louder than words,” he said. “I’m doing the right things and taking the right steps necessary for me to put myself in the best position possible to be exactly what this organization drafted me to be.”
“I’m not giving up on the fact that they brought me in here as a first-round pick and want to see something out of me,” he said. “That’s not lost on me, and hopefully not on the people in this locker room, either.”