September 3, 2014

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Johnny Manziel defends lifestyle, says he’s doing nothing wrong and doesn’t plan to change

Browns third-round pick Christian Kirksey watches as quarterback Johnny Manziel lobs the ball to one of the children at the NFL Rookie Symposium on Friday in Berea. Manziel was again in the spotlight for his partying ways. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Browns third-round pick Christian Kirksey watches as quarterback Johnny Manziel lobs the ball to one of the children at the NFL Rookie Symposium on Friday in Berea. Manziel was again in the spotlight for his partying ways. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

BEREA — Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel made no apologies for his recent off-the-field antics.

The rookie from Texas A&M also made it clear that he plans on having a lot more fun before training camp begins July 26.

“I’m very about football and very about my job, which doesn’t get reported or won’t get reported, but I am going to enjoy my time off,” Manziel said Friday at the NFL Rookie Symposium. “That’s what everybody else does, and that’s what I should do.

“If I want to go home and spend time with my friends or go out on my weekends, I absolutely have the right to do that. I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong.”

For better or worse, Manziel was the focal point — for the invited campers and the media — throughout the Play 60 Youth Football Clinic held at Cleveland’s team headquarters.

Though the Browns have denied reporters’ access to “Johnny Football” for the last 3½ weeks, the NFL made him available for a 10-minute group interview.

Not surprisingly, the majority of questions focused on Manziel’s wild partying, much of which has been documented on social media and gossip websites like TMZ.

“I’m not going to change who I am for anybody,” the 22nd pick in the NFL Draft said defiantly. “I’m growing up and continuing to learn from my mistakes, and trying not to make the same ones over and over again.

“But am I going to live in a shell or am I just going to hide from everybody and not do anything? No. I don’t think that’s fair to ask.”

Manziel refused to discuss specific incidents, referring to his money phone, inflatable swan rafting and champagne-spraying DJ adventures as “in the past.”

The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner admitted his Cleveland teammates are “tired of the hype, and I’m tired of it, too.”

The 5-foot-11, 210-pounder attempted to shift the dialogue to his ongoing battle with incumbent starter Brian Hoyer. He also complimented Browns coach Mike Pettine for the way he is conducting the quarterback competition.

“Obviously, I’m very competitive, so to say I don’t want to be the starter is ridiculous,” Manziel said. “I want to play, that’s what everyone wants to do. But if it doesn’t happen, it won’t be the end of the world and I’ll support Brian 100 percent.”

While Manziel has long embraced his Hollywood-like persona, Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles stressed the importance of being a role model heading into the draft. As a result, the Jaguars took him with the No. 3 pick and immediately made him the face of their franchise.

Bortles didn’t back down from those comments, even while standing on the opposite sideline from Manziel – and on Manziel’s home field.

“It was how I was raised,” Bortles said. “Don’t disgrace your family name and don’t disgrace yourself or any organization that you’re a part of. I thought I was doing the right thing and trying to show my character in the best way I knew I could.

“But Johnny is way more under the microscope than I am. He’s way more of a celebrity than me. I definitely consider him a friend and wish him the best, and look forward to seeing how everything turns out.”

NFL legends Emmitt Smith, Warren Moon and Joe Montana have gone a step further, directly criticizing and warning Manziel of the consequences of his social life.

He also has become a polarizing figure among his fellow draftees, including South Carolina linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who went No. 1 to the Texans.

“I don’t have nothing to say about Johnny,” Clowney said sternly. “I’m only focusing on my career.”

Cleveland cornerback Justin Gilbert, running back Terrance West and linebacker Christian Kirksey also declined to discuss their flamboyant teammate, but were much more polite in doing so.

“I’m not any different from anyone else here, except things get blown out of proportion and people seem to follow me,” Manziel insisted.

“My weekends aren’t what I’m doing seven days a week. There are five or six other days when I’m here at this building, going through my playbook and working out just like every other rookie. Nothing that I’m doing on the weekends is affecting my job.”

The entire AFC draft class will conclude their stay at the symposium with a trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this morning.

Following the appearance, Manziel plans to fly home to Texas and spend several weeks with his family. He also will take part in several meetings with his marketing agent, Maverick Carter of LRMR, which is owned by NBA superstar LeBron James.

LRMR and Fenway Sports Management represent Manziel and are jointly responsible for building his brand, which is already among the most visible in the sport.

“My situation is unique and different, and I understand that,” Manziel said. “But I just want to wake up one week and not have my name going through something. I’m working on getting better at that.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

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