Johnny Manziel responds to height concerns: 'I play like I'm 10-feet tall'
INDIANAPOLIS -- The latest possible ding on the NFL future of Johnny Manziel came Friday morning, when it was revealed that he measured in at just under 6-feet tall at the scouting combine. Add in all the talk about Manziel's YOLO lifestyle, and some issues with his tendency to improvise on the field even when he shouldn't, and it's easy to understand why this combine is as important to Manziel as any combine has been for any other player in recent memory.
When he took the podium Friday afternoon, Manziel talked for about 15 minutes in a fairly rehearsed way, though occasional blasts of a more competitive personality came out at times. For example, there was a bit of a bristle when he was asked right away about his height, and whether he believes that will be an issue.
"No, sir. I play with a lot of heart, and a lot of passion, and I feel like I play like I'm 10-feet tall. The measurement to me is just a number."
Then, there's the notion that Manziel can't live in the pocket when he needs to -- that unless he's outside of structure, he can't be a consistently good passer. There's some truth to that idea -- the more you force Manziel to stay back in the pocket, the more he starts to make mistakes -- but that's not something that can't be overcome. And it's something that he's working on now.
"I think you look at on-field stuff, from my freshman year to last year," he said about why teams should be impressed with his progress. "I really tried to hone in on some things this year -- getting better in the pocket, and continuing to develop as a passer. Off the field, I'm continuing to learn from my mistakes, and continuing to grow up. I have an opportunity now, moving into a professional phase, and this is life now. This is the job for me, and I'm taking it very seriously, and I'm very excited about the future."
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And that particular perception -- that he's too random in his game and can't succeed in structure -- is not one that makes him happy. At all.
"I'm just looking forward to [showing] up all the people who are saying that I'm just an improviser," he said. "I feel that I worked extremely hard this year to hone in on my game all around. I'm continuing to do that -- working out in San Diego [with performance coach George Whitfield], and getting better as a pocket passer, and as a quarterback in general.
"I think there's times when plays aren't going to go as scripted, as people draw them up on the whiteboard. You go through your reads and you do certain things, and there are times to take off, and get outside the pocket and make some plays. But at the same time, I want to be a guy who can drop back and can go through my progressions, go through my reads, and really take what's given to me."
Then, there was the therapy issue. In a July 2013 column, ESPN.com's Wright Thompson reported that Manziel had undergone therapy for alcohol and anger management issues.
"No, sir -- I don't believe those are true," Manziel said of those specific reports. "Last spring, coach Sumlin came to me and said that they have an in-house guy, and he wanted me to sit down and meet with him. I was more than willing to learn whatever I could from him, and sit down to have meetings with him, and those continued throughout the next couple years. I had a great relationship with him, and it was really nothing more than that."
Manziel didn't reveal the counselor's name, nor did he get into the specific nature of the counseling he received. Nor should he have to, certainly not under the media spotlight. When teams want to know ... well, that's where it really counts. And it's hardly a career death sentence that he's been through some things and appears to be trying to come out the other side of it all. And in the end, it's about convincing one team that he's got enough of the right kind of character to be a franchise cornerstone.
"Just be myself," he said when asked how that's done. "I mean, obviously, there's nothing I can do, going back to change what's on film, so hopefully the film will speak volumes. Whatever they do think, now, it's just a chance for them to sit and get to know me, and ask whatever questions they want. I'm not shy about anything they want to ask me -- whether it's wanting me to throw at private workouts, asking me at my pro day, or whatever it may be. I'm more than open to answering anything they have to throw out at me."And then, it will be Manziel's job to intercept those prying eyes.