On Monday, Browns coach Mike Pettine, who previously said that “harsh repercussions” would flow from any further Johnny Manziel incident, told reporters that: (1) he hadn’t seen Manziel’s latest party-boy video; and (2) Pettine planned to watch the video and talk to Manziel about it. On Wednesday, when Manziel showed up for work, he reported that he has concussion-like symptoms from three days earlier — before Pettine could meet with Manziel about the video.
It doesn’t take a non-concussed brain to realize that the easiest way for a 23-year-old with a history of off-field issues and no self-awareness to avoid getting in trouble at work (again) would be to claim that he has headaches and/or other symptoms of a concussion. Everyone associated with the NFL is currently petrified of letting a player take the field with a head injury. Given the lack of a thermometer-in-the-orifice style test for diagnosing a concussion, the Browns physicians weren’t about to dispute Manziel’s claims.
So Manziel avoids “harsh repercussions” from Pettine, who possibly won’t be employed by the Browns this time next week. Manziel also avoids the risk of a Week 17 injury as he enters an offseason that could see him traded to a new team, possibly the one in his Lone Star home state with an owner who continues to have a clear interest in acquiring him.
Officially, Maziel legitimately has a concussion. Given the importance of the issue, I hesitate to even suggest that he’s possibly manipulating the system. But that’s the potential genius of faking it; it’s a silver-bullet excuse that no one will be willing to question.
Given some of the decisions Manziel has made — and the lengths to which he has gone to take the sting out of those decisions (including reportedly recruiting others to lie about the timing of the creation of the bye-week video that got him on double-secret probation with Pettine) — Manziel fits the profile of a guy who at least would be tempted to take advantagage of the league’s concussion sensitivity to avoid a tough meeting with his boss, and possibly a suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.
From Cleveland’s perspective, putting Manziel on ice for the final week of the season avoids the question of whether action should be taken in response to his latest party-boy video. Which avoids the kind of outcome that would result in his trade value declining as the offseason approaches.
Besides, there’s nothing the Browns can do for now, even if they suspect that he’s trying to avoid accountability for the latest defiance of his employer. After the season, they can do plenty. Trading Manziel to the Cowboys could be the option at the top of the list.