BEREA — Johnny Manziel won’t apologize for the trip to Las Vegas over the weekend. Or his fondness for fun. Or his A-list celebrity status that has shaken up things in Northeast Ohio.
“I don’t live my life according to you guys or according to what other people think of me,” Manziel said Wednesday after practice. “I’m going to live my life to the fullest and continue to be committed to this game and committed to what I need to be doing here and trying to earn my place in this locker room with these coaches, with this organization.
“And if I want to go out and have some fun and it doesn’t hinder what my main goals in life are, then I don’t really care what anybody has to say.”
Coach Mike Pettine doesn’t think his rookie quarterback has any reason to feel sorry or guilty for flying to Sin City on his weekend off. Pettine said Manziel made the organization aware of the trip ahead of time.
“My advice to him was have fun,” Pettine said.
Pettine said the decision to party in Las Vegas two weeks after being drafted No. 22 and during the first stages of a competition with incumbent Brian Hoyer doesn’t raise any concerns about Manziel’s commitment to football and the team.
“We have a saying in the NFL, as long as it doesn’t affect your job,” Pettine said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked and then some. He’s very much on point with his preparation, been outstanding in the weight room, in the workout part of it, and he comes out here at practice and works as hard or harder than anybody else.
“It’s something that I know a big deal was made of it, but it’s really a non-issue. It’s just like anybody else, he’s a man and we’re going to treat our guys like that until they prove that they need to be treated otherwise.”
Manziel spent time with the first-team offense Wednesday as part of coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s pre-planned rotation for OTAs. He made a couple of questionable decisions by throwing into coverage, but showed great touch on a corner route to receiver Josh Gordon and hit tight end Jordan Cameron for a red zone touchdown despite being a little late with the delivery.
Nonetheless, the great majority of the 10-minute interview session was spent dissecting his time away from the field.
“I’m very surprised, actually, that it’s actually a story,” Manziel said. “I’ve accomplished dreams of mine that I never really thought I would get a chance to be in this position and I’ve been here every day working extremely hard and I’m coming in here every day trying to earn my place and do what I need to do. And for me to get a free weekend to spend time with friends and family of mine and just have fun and relax and get away from the grind a little bit and then come back when I’m supposed to and get back to work this week and do what I’m supposed to do. I don’t really feel that, um, that’s a story.”
Despite his protest, everything Manziel does is a story. Especially if it includes posing poolside with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and several bikini-clad women, and spraying champagne into a crowd while partying at a club.
“I’m not married and I don’t have any kids. I have a lot of free time” said Manziel, who posted the picture with Gronkowski on his Instagram account.
The pictures and video quickly circulated through social media and instantly became a story locally and nationally. Everyone had an opinion on how Manziel chose to spend his free time.
“I’m not going to micromanage our players outside of the building,” Pettine said.
“That’s who he is,” left tackle Joe Thomas said. “You can’t expect him to be someone he’s not. He’s a 21-year-old kid in the offseason, I don’t think anyone has any issues with it.
“Not a big deal. If you were doing that the night before a game, then it would be a different issue, but it is the offseason. You need a chance to decompress and get your mind off of football because it’s a long haul and the season is going to be a long grind, so you need to kind of let loose a little bit when you get the chance.”
Veteran strong safety Donte Whitner took the acceptance a step further.
“I can guarantee you if me and Johnny came in together, I probably would’ve been in Vegas with him,” he said. “I’m sure he’s going to take this as a little more fuel to the fire. He’s still in a quarterback battle right now, and it’s not a big deal.”
Pettine called the backlash Manziel received a “price tag” for his reputation. Manziel said he learned to accept the lack of privacy a long time ago.
“I’m very surprised it is a story, but I knew going into it that I can’t go anywhere without people knowing I’m there or tweeting or doing whatever that I’m there, so I’m used to it by now. And fair or unfair, that’s my life,” he said. “It’s been my life for so long, I really wouldn’t know what it would be like any other way. I don’t mean that in a way to have a big head or anything like that. It’s just how things are. For some reason, wherever I go, people want to take pictures. They think I’m doing something wild when I’m just living the normal life.”
So far, Manziel has limited the wild life to away from Northeast Ohio. He said he hasn’t been downtown and his life here consists of time at the team facility and the hotel, with an occasional trip to Chipotle.
As for his celebrity lifestyle away from the North Coast, he said he isn’t trying to seize the moment because he isn’t sure when the spotlight might be turned off.
“I don’t want this to be anything that’s short-lived,” he said. “I haven’t done anything to establish myself or create this type of buzz or anything like that. I’m just another rookie.
“Yeah, Heisman Trophy and did some OK things in college, but I haven’t done anything here.”