Coming out of Texas A&M, one of the biggest questions surrounding Johnny Manziel was his maturity. Could he distance himself from the hard-partying Johnny Football persona and develop the traits needed to be the face of an NFL franchise?
A rocky rookie year with the Browns didn’t paint an encouraging picture. In the preseason, the NFL fined Manziel $12,000 for giving the middle finger to the Redskins’ bench. The day before Cleveland’s season-finale, Manziel missed the team’s walkthrough and the team had to send security to his house to check on him. A later report said Manziel threw a party for himself and teammates the night before the walkthrough. That incident resulted in another fine and a deactivation for the game against the Ravens.
The morning after Super Bowl XLIX, Manziel’s story took another turn as news broke that he had voluntarily checked himself into rehab on Wednesday.
"Johnny knows there are areas in which he needs to improve in order to be a better family member, friend and teammate,” a statement released by Manziel’s publicist read, “and he thought the offseason was the right time to take this step.
"On behalf of Johnny and his family, we're asking for privacy until he rejoins the team in Cleveland."
The decision to seek help stems directly from his “lifestyle away from the field,” reports ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, who also said Manziel told his inner circle he’s looking to “figure out his value system.”
Give credit to Manziel for actively seeking out treatment. Dating back to last year, Manziel has said all the right things. “I'm trying to show people I've grown up, and I've learned from my experiences,” Manziel said last February before the draft. “I feel like you're a stupid person if you continue to make the same wrong decisions. I don't want to hear, 'Oh, anybody in his situation would have been doing the same thing.' I'm 100 percent responsible for my actions” But his actions have rarely backed them up. Until now.
“We respect Johnny's initiative in this decision and will fully support him throughout this process,” Browns general manager Ray Farmer said in a statement. “Our players' health and well-being will always be of the utmost importance to the Cleveland Browns. We continually strive to create a supportive environment and provide the appropriate resources, with our foremost focus being on the individual and not just the football player.”
This isn’t Manziel’s first experience with counseling. At Texas A&M, Manziel met with a counselor to reportedly help with anger management and alcohol issues.
"After last spring, coach [Kevin] Sumlin kind of came to me and said they had an in-house guy, wanted me to just sit down and meet with him. I was more than willing to learn whatever I could from him and sit down and have meetings with him," Manziel said at the scouting combine. But clearly, the decision to voluntarily seek help -- whether it came from Manziel directly or the people around him -- speaks volumes.
Perhaps as a result of these off-field issues, Manziel struggled mightily as a rookie on the field, passing for 175 yards and two interceptions on 51.4 percent passing in five games of action (two of which were starts). He didn’t fare much better on the ground, running for just 29 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
The road ahead will be long. But after a year full of bad decisions, Manziel may finally be back on track.