BEREA, Ohio (AP) – The Browns are tackling Manzielmania. Containing it could be a lot tougher.
In an effort to minimize the frenzy around quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Browns are limiting media access to the first-round draft pick’s appearance this weekend at the team’s rookie minicamp.
The Browns are only allowing only local reporters — and maybe some select national ones — to be at the former Texas A&M star’s first practice as an NFL player. The Browns selected Manziel in last week’s draft, and already the 21-year-old has brought long-sought attention to a sleeping franchise that has had just two winning seasons in the past 15 years.
It’s not clear what criteria the Browns are using to determine who is allowed into the workouts.
Since drafting Manziel, college football’s biggest star, the team has been inundated with interview requests. Beyond that, the Browns have sold nearly 3,000 season-ticket packages and Manziel’s No. 2 jersey is the most coveted fashion item in town.
The Browns have altered their practice availability in recent days. After originally saying Saturday’s practice would be open, reporters and photographers will now only watch the first 15 minutes when players do stretching exercises and individual drills. Also, first-year Browns coach Mike Pettine has decided to close Sunday’s practice to the media.
Pettine has experience with media mayhem. He was on New York’s coaching staff when the Jets acquired quarterback Tim Tebow and he wants the Browns to get out in front of any potential problems.
“We have a plan for that,” Pettine said of handling the hype around Manziel. “We know it will bring a lot of attention. We’ll be in the business of controlling what we can control.”
It won’t be as easy for the Browns to handle things during summer training camp, which will be open to the public and the team’s training facility will be swarmed upon by fans.
The Browns are doing all they can to keep Manziel from thinking he’s the Browns’ savior.
Earlier this week, owner Jimmy Haslam said the team has told Manziel not to expect anything other than a chance to compete for the starting job. If he wants to be Cleveland’s No. 1 quarterback, he’ll have to beat out Brian Hoyer.
“He’s not the starter,” Haslam said at a luncheon event in Canton. “Brian Hoyer is our starting quarterback. Johnny is the backup. They’ll compete. If Johnny wins the job, fine. If not, Brian will be the quarterback. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s been expressed to him. I think you’ll see Johnny perform that way. Johnny wants to win games.”
As for this weekend, the Browns don’t want Manziel’s celebrity to overshadow the other members of this year’s draft class, including Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, who was selected 13 picks ahead of the Heisman Trophy winner.
While that might be noble, Manziel’s stardom will dwarf everything about the Browns, who are on their fourth coach in five years and recently underwent yet another front-office purge.
As for the media, the team has already implemented new guidelines in order to keep the numbers of reporters and photographers to a minimum. Anyone interested in covering a practice, must notify the Browns 48 hours in advance.
It’s all for Manziel, and he hasn’t even thrown a pass.
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