Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will be the most scrutinized college player in the 2013 football season. We know that because he already is.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN confirms a report that Manziel left the Manning Passing Academy a day early. However, Mort says camp officials were “adamant” that Manziel was not sent home by Manning family patriarch Archie prematurely due to partying.
“Johnny Manziel did participate in some activities in the 2013 Manning Passing Academy as a college counselor/coach,” a camp spokesman told Mortensen, who is present at the event. “After missing and being late for practice assignments, Johnny explained that he had been feeling ill. Consequently, we agreed that it was in everyone’s best interest for him to go home a day early.”
It sounds like a diplomatic way of tiptoeing around a situation that could embarrass the Mannings almost as much as it would embarrass Manziel. After all, the Mannings want high-profile quarterbacks to choose to participate in the camp; if the Mannings start calling out guys who are essentially acting their age, the harder it could be to get them to choose to attend in the future. Likewise, the Mannings don’t want to create the impression that their camp is being run by actual or alleged booze hounds.
“I enjoyed meeting Johnny,” Peyton Manning told Mortensen. “I can remember a 20-year-old Eli [Manning] missing a meeting and catching some flak. We always have counselors who leave early. Johnny was great with the campers for the time he was here. He had to leave early. I wish him the best and I want him to come back as a counselor next year.”
It’s possibly Peyton was being diplomatic, too; however, he hasn’t pulled punches in the past when necessary to call out folks who have been “liquored up.”
Regardless, it’s another reason for scouts and the media to keep an eye on Manziel as he faces the challenge, whether he likes it or not, of maturing in to the kind of quarterback who won’t have non-football concerns prompt his draft stock to dip. And if there’s any behind-the-scenes truth to the reported rumors of partying, the private dressing down he undoubtedly received from Peyton was likely punishment enough.