The biggest story of a slow month came from the all-that-that-implies image of Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel tightly rolling up a dollar in a nightclub bathroom. The Browns had no comment on the photo at the time, and Manziel’s camp (which had no qualms about calling B.S. on that phony lawsuit filed against Manziel in May) went silent.
Since then, most of the media has tread lightly regarding the image and the possible explanations for it, with the photo rarely if ever mentioned on outlets like ESPN and NFL Network. Now that the time has come to have access to Manziel, the specific questions raised by the photo have become absorbed into the general concerns relating to Manziel’s lifestyle.
Twice in the last two days, Manziel has met with the media. On neither day did anyone ask whether the photo is legitimate. On neither day did anyone ask why he was tightly rolling up a piece of paper money. At no point did anyone ask why the large necklace that was outside his T-shirt in other photos from that night had been tucked inside his shirt before he commenced the process of tightly rolling up a bill. At no point did anyone ask what happened after the dollar bill was rolled up.
Manziel may have short-circuited some of those questions on Friday by opening his press conference with this comment: “[T]o just save you guys a lot of time, Coach Pettine and [G.M] Ray Farmer and I have really talked about a lot of things that have transpired over the course of the offseason. For me, my main thing is the people in this building — my teammates, the coaching staff and the higher-ups in this organization — we’ve all been on the same page. We’ve all been good and are very eager to be moving forward. At the end of the day, I made some rookie mistakes — there are some things I wish I could have gone back and done a little differently — but I’m continuing to move forward and try and represent this organization and this team in a positive manner, in a positive light.”
Asked generally about the mistakes, Manziel slammed the door: “I think I just spoke on that a little bit. I’ve talked about that with Coach Pettine; I’ve talked about it with Ray Farmer and the people that I need to talk about that with. Moving forward, they’re good with everything and I’ve told them everything I need to. Everything’s been good. . . . I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me going out and having a nightlife and having a social life. I am 21 years old, and I do like going out. It was the offseason. It’s free time for us, and if I want to go out and hang out with my friends or go to nightclubs or do things like that, then I think that’s within my rights to be doing that. I think there are other guys throughout the league that are doing that. I’m not trying to compare myself to anybody else, but I think that’s within my rights to be doing that.”
A press conference perhaps isn’t the best way to push Manziel for more details, since it requires at least one of the reporters to be willing to ask a question that may draw the ire of the player, the team, other reporters, bloggers who thrive on members of the media asking stupid questions or saying stupid things, and/or the Twitter. So when a bunch of reporters in the same room are all thinking the same thing — What was he doing with that rolled up dollar bill? — it’s easy to wait for someone else to ask that awkward, uncomfortable question. Which increases the chances that the awkward, uncomfortable question will never be asked.
The media currently covering the team had another chance to ask the awkward, uncomfortable question today, when he addressed the lessons he has learned to date.
“The reason that I’m popular or the reason that people follow me and there’s been such a buzz around me is when I went out on Saturdays at Texas A&M, I played with an extreme amount of passion and I played with my heart on my sleeve, but more than anything, I had fun,” Manziel said. “I have fun playing this game. I have fun going out on this field playing football. It’s what I live for. It’s what I do, same way off the field. Whether I’m playing golf, going out having a night life, whatever it is, I have a lot of fun. That’s what my life is, and luckily for me I’m living out my dream of playing in the NFL having a ton of fun. My dream has come true, and I finally got some time to get some downtime and celebrate that with my family, with my friends. This is the greatest life that I could have ever imagined for me, and I’m loving that.
“Will I continue to get better being a professional and learn lessons about life? Of course, I’m 21 years old. Age is not an excuse, but I need to mature and I have done some immature things. Moving forward, I’m going to try and mature and get better and handle myself better as a professional. That’s really all I can say about that. My life is incredible. I’m blessed to be in this position. I’m going to have fun each and every day, whether it’s practice, whether it’s training camp, whether it’s during the season going out and playing a game which will be even better, or it’s going out in the offseason or playing golf or hanging out with my family. Life is fun. Enjoy [it] while it’s here.”
When he finished, there were still no questions about the photo. With each passing press conference, it will be more awkward and more uncomfortable for whoever decides to be the one to bring it up. At some point, however, someone needs to show him that picture and ask: (1) Is this you?; and (2) If it is, what were you doing?
Maybe those questions will be asked by whoever CBS or ESPN or NFL Network sends to Cleveland for a sit-down interview before the team’s Week One visit to Pittsburgh. Or maybe CBS or ESPN or NFL Network will be told that, without an agreement that those questions won’t be asked, there won’t be an interview. And maybe whoever agrees not to ask those questions will get the “exclusive” with Manziel.
UPDATE 3:35 p.m. ET: Lindsay Jones of USA Today contends via Twitter than Manziel was asked about the rolled-up bill on Friday, by Pat McManamon of ESPN.com. The transcript generated by the Browns doesn’t reflect that (which may be a story in and of itself), and none of the TV coverage on ESPN or NFL Network has focused on the question or the photo or any of the questions that the photo logically gives rise to. Also, Manziel’s answer was evasive, and he wasn’t pressed for more on the basic questions of whether that was him in the picture, and what happened next.