Saturday, Nov 01, 2014
Local Sports

Manziel works with first team


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— Johnny Manziel took a planned trip one slot up the depth chart. There’s no telling how long No. 2 will stay No. 1.

The rookie quarterback took snaps with Cleveland’s starters for the first time in practice at training camp on Monday, moving ahead of Brian Hoyer for at least one day.

Coach Mike Pettine said Manziel’s promotion was simply the next step in the club’s evaluation of the two quarterbacks in the second full week of their competition for the starting job.

“It’s just part of our plan,” Pettine said. “We said we were going to allow the quarterbacks to compete, at some point you’ve got to mix up the supporting cast a little bit. It’s all part of it.”

Manziel’s promotion — planned or not — caused quite a stir at Browns camp as another large crowd lined the fields behind team headquarters to get a close look at Hoyer vs. Johnny Football.

Pettine knew the decision to move the popular Manziel in with the starters would cause a commotion.

“That’s great,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “That comes with the territory.”

Manziel had worked exclusively with Cleveland’s second-string offense until Monday, when Hoyer was dropped back with the subs.

Pettine cautioned not to look deeper into the change and said there’s still a strong chance Hoyer will start Saturday’s exhibition opener in Detroit. Pettine said Manziel’s performance in Saturday’s scrimmage at Akron, where he made plays with his arm and legs, had no bearing on him practicing with the starters.

“It’s just something we wanted to work them both in and it’s part of our process,” he said.

On his first play of 11-on-11 drills, Manziel completed a 40-yard pass to wide receiver Travis Benjamin, who came back to grab the underthrown ball. Moments later, Manziel’s tipped pass intended for Josh Gordon was intercepted by safety Donte Whitner.

Manziel completed 6 of 17 passes during the practice, and Hoyer was 11 of 22.

After reviewing the tape, Pettine said both quarterbacks made progress during the Akron scrimmage, where Manziel showed some of the elusive scrambling ability which helped him win the Heisman Trophy as a freshman at Texas A&M.

“I think both quarterbacks took steps,” he said. “I thought they both played to their skillset. I thought Johnny did a good job making some plays with his feet, keeping plays alive, and Brian I thought showed some poise in the pocket and stepped into some throws. Let’s not forget, that he’s a guy coming off of a knee (surgery) and that was really the first true live work that he had gotten, so I thought that was good work for him as well.”

Browns wide receiver Nate Burleson said the switch at quarterback didn’t change things at practice.

“Maybe it’s because I’ve been around,” he said. “I’ve been on teams where we’ve had three quarterbacks in one season, so for us it’s just show up and catch the ball. There’s a height difference in the two, but as far as fundamentals, they both throw the ball the same. They’re both making plays. We don’t take notice. It’s not, ‘Hold on, wait, Johnny’s in here.’ It’s just listen to the play, go out and be where we’re supposed to be and make the play when the ball is coming to us.”

Burleson said Manziel has improved during eight practice sessions.

“You can tell he’s getting a lot more comfortable in the huddle, kind of spouting out the plays with ease,” he said.

Cornerback Joe Haden has noticed a change in Manziel since camp began.

“He’s becoming more comfortable,” Haden said. “You can see that he’s finally starting to relax.”

For Hoyer, that’s probably not a good thing.

Manziel signed a multiyear endorsement deal with MusclePharm, a sports nutrition company. He joins Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Colin Kaepernick as endorsers of the product. Manziel’s portfolio includes deals with Nike and Snickers.

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