You’ve more than likely heard by now that Johnny Manziel has officially signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. Here’s the full report on his very first practice. After years and countless news cycles and the general ugly clutter of internet backwash, a very troubled person has gotten the fresh start that he’s been yearning for. Where it goes from here should be interesting (and hopefully more than a little entertaining) to watch.
Johnny is not the built-in superstar in this new scenario. Former Oregon and Ole Miss QB Jeremiah Masoli has the job and it’s his to lose. Head Coach June Jones, another veteran of both the NFL and college ranks, is excited to have Manziel, but adamant that he’s got to earn any spot in the QB pecking order.
For Johnny’s part, he was mostly observing during his first practice.
“Spacing is a little bit different on the defensive side if I had to look at anything,’’ Manziel said. “On offense, I’ve never ran this many routes that are predicated off of one defender ... every route has an opportunity to break three or four different ways, which is different.
”But I think it gives you the versatility and offensive weapons to be able to attack coverages more intensely than it would just running a fixed route. I know it’s going to take some time, but now I see it more so, and my expectations are tempered.’’
Listen to that. Soak in it. Two full paragraphs with nothing but pure football talk. Johnny still carries a heavy burden of troubles, and he’s got a ways to go before we can really say he’s “back,” whatever that means to millions of unique interested people. But catching a glimpse here and there of the football part of the Johnny Football legend is encouraging. Sometimes we can forget that beneath the thick crust of storylines, headlines, failures, dark spells, and searching, there’s another layer beneath the veneer of Johnny Football: the sheer joy for the sport and athleticism that inspired so many of the moments that built up the mystique around the man in the first place.
Hamilton may not be the final stage of his tour. Or it may be. All of that remains to be seen. But he will be back on a football field, calmly and fluidly keeping his eyes down the field in the chaos of the action and all the abandon of the moment. Leaving people wondering if he’ll get out of this one, and yet not really surprised when he’s fifty yards down the field a few seconds later. Johnny Manziel is 25 years old and trying to make a comeback.