Johnny Manziel has changed, in multiple ways. Off the field, he has avoided controversy (for the most part) following a 10-week stay in rehab. On the field, he’s starting to look like the guy he was at Texas A&M.
After Thursday night’s performance against Buffalo, which the team has touted via its Twitter page, Manziel tried not to be presumptuous about the potential implications of an improvement nearly as dramatic as last year’s decline.
Asked by reporters if he’s anxious to get a chance to play with the starting offense, Manziel deferred to the head coach. But it’s clear he wants to have a chance to show what he can do with the starting offense, against a starting defense.
“I am just happy to be out there and getting a lot of reps,” Manziel said in comments distributed by the team. “That was a good two quarters off football that I got tonight that I am getting a lot better from. I am going to go back and look at the tape and learn from it. The more reps that I am getting, the better for me right now. Would I like to be in there with the ones? Sure, but that is not my call. If that decision does come, I will be ready to hop in there, but for now, I am making the most of the opportunities I am getting.”
He’s confident he would have thrived against the Bills’ starters on Thursday night.
“I got a chance to go against them last year for a couple drives there, punched it down the field on one of those drives,” Manziel said.
So does he think he still has a chance to be the starter?
“I’m still going out trying to play my best and make an impression,” Manziel said following an outing that included a 96-yard touchdown drive. “That’s what I want to do. I want to have these guys go into the film tomorrow and turn on the tape and say, ‘This guy’s really doing things right and this guys really fighting hard to pick things up and make some plays.’ That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to make an impression and leave a little bit of a lasting memory coming off these games.”
The reporters, who seem to sense what may be coming (especially since starter Josh McCown has a finger injury and despite coach Mike Pettine’s position that McCown is firmly entrenched as the starter), kept at it, asking Manziel if he thinks he’s one drive away from “putting heat” on McCown.
“That’s definitely not my words I’m going to use, just ‘putting heat’ on Josh,” Manziel said. “I think Josh has done everything right since the day he’s been here. He’s obviously a vet and has a very good understanding of this. Mine and Josh’s relationship right now, I’m trying to learn from him, learn from some of the things he does right and learn from some of the mistakes he does make. I think we have a good relationship in that regard. I wouldn’t say putting heat on; I’m just trying to learn from him because there’s a lot still for me to learn.”
It’s pretty clear that Manziel wants to play — why wouldn’t he? And for a 22-year-old kid who was peppered by loaded questions immediately after having a great performance, he did the best he could to say all the right things. He likely did better than other quarterbacks would have done under the same circumstances.
You know, quarterbacks who may have been inclined to declare that they believe they’re the best quarterback in the NFL.