Cleveland Browns' Johnny Manziel (2) is helped off the field after being injured in the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Chuck Burton
December 22, 2014

CLEVELAND (AP) Perhaps fitting, Johnny Manziel's final play was a 1-yard loss.

He didn't get very far in his rookie season.

Manziel will sit out Cleveland's finale with a hamstring injury he sustained during Sunday's loss to Carolina in his second career start. Manziel's injury, coupled with a shoulder injury to Brian Hoyer, could force the Browns to start undrafted rookie quarterback Connor Shaw, who spent the season on the team's practice squad, in the season finale at Baltimore.

Once again, the Browns' quarterback situation is a total mess.

Coach Mike Pettine said Monday that Manziel's injury needs several weeks to recover, meaning the hyped first-round draft pick will end his first NFL season where it began - on the sideline. The Browns only got to see Manziel in two starts and he was on the field for just 72 plays, making it difficult to evaluate him as their future quarterback.

Pettine believes Manziel made progress in his limited opportunities and developed on and off the field.

''He's made strides and I know it was a lot to throw at him as a rookie just coming from the system in which he played. And I just think it's difficult sometimes to evaluate the player when you're not necessarily playing at a high level around him,'' Pettine said.

Manziel was 3 of 8 for 32 yards against the Panthers before he went down in the second quarter. The 22-year-old said he tweaked his hamstring earlier in the game, and he may have hurt it worse on a sprint out which ended with him being driven out of bounds by two Carolina defenders.

Manziel's first-season stats weren't much. He finished 18 of 35 for 175 yards and two interceptions.

''The sample size is tough,'' Pettine said. ''Going back and looking at it, he did some good things.''

Hoyer, who started the first 13 games before being benched, replaced Manziel and rallied the Browns (7-8) before they fell 17-13, extending their losing streak to four. Pettine said Hoyer hurt his right shoulder when he was hit making a long throw in the second half.

Pettine said it could be several days before the Browns know if Hoyer can play against the Ravens.

''I just know he is very sore today and the day after is usually very difficult,'' Pettine said. ''Time is going to heal it, but we'll let it die down and quiet down enough for him to be available on Sunday.''

If Hoyer can't go, the team will turn to Shaw, an undrafted free agent signed by the Browns in May. Shaw will likely get the bulk of snaps in practice over the next few days and Pettine said the team is exploring bringing in another quarterback.

Shaw went 27-5 as a starter and passed for 6,074 yards and 56 touchdowns for the South Carolina Gamecocks.

''He's been outstanding for us all year,'' Pettine said. ''He's done everything that we've asked. He's not the biggest guy. He's not the fastest guy. He's not the strongest guy, but he just found a way to be productive and I think that his strength lies in competitiveness. He's a guy that I wouldn't be surprised if he does have to play that he goes out there and plays well.

''He showed flashes of it in the preseason and it wouldn't come as a surprise because of what type of kid he is.''

Manziel's season began with questions about his work ethic following an offseason of well-documented partying. He couldn't beat out Hoyer for the starting job in training camp and didn't get his first game experience until Nov. 30. He came off the bench in the fourth quarter at Buffalo and led the Browns on a TD drive.

When he replaced Hoyer and started Cleveland's home finale, Manziel, the Browns' 21st starting quarterback since 1999, struggled badly. He looked unprepared, overmatched. Now, the Browns must decide if they saw enough positives to go forward with Manziel as their franchise QB.

Pettine won't worry about that until the season's over.

''We have one week left,'' he said. ''We're going to focus all our energy and effort into that one. And when we're done from that one, we're going to focus all our effort and energy into next season. There's a lot to soak in. We're going to evaluate everything we've done in our football operations, from A to Z, and quarterback's going to be a big part of it.''

With the Browns, it always is.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

You May Like