BEREA, Ohio—Will fans see the type of quarterback they saw in college when Johnny Manziel earned the moniker “Johnny Football”?
“I don’t think you’re going to see the Johnny that you saw at Texas A&M because this isn’t Texas A&M,” Manziel said. “It’s a different point in my life. I’m a different person than I was a year and a half ago last time I stepped off the field against Duke. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better throughout the course of those weeks during the season, and the time that I did sit benefitted me a ton.
“For me to come out on Sunday, it’s just go out, execute the offense and don’t get caught up in all the clutter and everything else,” he said. “Try and go out there with a free mind, and when it comes down to it, just play football.”
Manziel said he has spent a lot of time this week with the coaches preparing for his first start.
“We’ve approached this week as we would any other week,” he said. “I think they’ve done a good job of making sure I’m overly prepared. We’re just going into our (early preparation) obviously, but I think that’s going to be the key throughout the week - continuing to hone that in and make sure we’re on top of everything and nothing is going to get out there and surprise us during the game.”
Manziel was asked what will be different from his first extended playing time against the Bills two weeks ago.
“I think Cincinnati obviously knows now that I’m going to be playing on Sunday, and they have time to prepare,” he said. “They can go back and look at what they want or game plan. They know that I’m behind center, so other than that, I think the focus this week is on us and what we need to do as a team and as an offense and get better and go out here and execute and put points on the board. That’s what we need to do. That’s what we’ve been struggling to do a little bit for the past couple of weeks, so we need to flip the script and pull our own weight in this locker room.”
Manziel is excited to get a chance to play in a meaningful game with the Browns still having a chance to make the playoffs.
“Yeah, everything that we want to accomplish is still possible,” he said. “For me to get this opportunity now...like I said earlier, the main thing is as an offense we need to play better and get the ball in the end zone. Like Coach Pettine and Brian (Hoyer) have continually said, this is a bottom-line business, and the bottom line for our offense is we need to get into the end zone.
“That’s really what we need to focus on this week is moving the ball, staying on the field and making sure we’re good throughout everything that we’re doing.”
Manziel said Sunday should be quite a day.
“Yeah, it’s going to be nuts, but at the same time, we have business to take care of and we have a game to play,” he said. “You can’t get too caught up in everything that’s going on outside and get caught up in the moment. We have a game plan. We know what we want to execute. We need to go out there and do it.”
Tabor Defends Billy: Pettine confirmed on Thursday that the Browns will stick with K Billy Cundiff this week against the Bengals.
On Wednesday, Pettine said it was still in discussion.
“It was discussed, but I have to follow up with Ray, he was out of town, so it’s something we’ll go ahead and look at,” Pettine said. “For now, it’s just like we talk about all of the other players. Billy knows. It’s important to him, but he’s got to pick it up.”
Cundiff has missed at least one field goal in the each of the past five games, including a 40-yard attempt last week in the 25-24 loss to the Colts.
On the season, Cundiff is 6-of-6 on field goals from 20-29 yards, 10-of-13 from 30-39 yards, 5-of-7 from 40-49 yards and just 1-of-3 from 50 yards or more.
In 2013, Cundiff was 21-of-26 (80.8 pct.) in field goal attempts for the Browns. His career totals are 182-of-239 attempts for a career percentage of 76.2.
The Browns brought in a couple of kickers last week for tryouts in the last two weeks.
On the season, Cundiff is just 22-of-29 for 75.9 percent accuracy. His longest field goal this season was from 53 yards. He had one field goal attempt blocked and is 28-of-28 on extra points.
Special team coordinator Chris Tabor defended Cundiff on Thursday.
Tabor said that Cundiff kicked the ball Thursday morning at FirstEnergy Stadium as well as he’s seen him kick.
Despite the official statistics show that Cundiff has missed seven field goals, Tabor considers that Cundiff has only missed five that are his fault. He said one was blocked and one miss was a bad snap, which Tabor doesn’t think is due to Cundiff.
Rabbit Running: Chris Tabor said he feels that KR/PR Travis Benjamin is back in his groove returning punts and kickoffs.
“I think the rabbit is out of his hole,” Tabor said.
Benjamin had 164 kickoff return yards (99 kickoff and 65 punt) last week against the Colts.
On the season, Benjamin has 12 returns for 88 yards (7.3 avg.), including a season long 37-yard return last week against the Colts. He has 11 kickoff returns for 229 yards (20.8 avg.) with a long of 28 yards.
Dansby ‘Probable’?: Although LB Karlos Dansby was listed as limited on the official injury report Wednesday, Dansby said he thinks he will be able to play this week.
“I’m feeling good,” Dansby said on Wednesday. “I’m probable, I would say, to go this week.”
Pettine was asked his assessment of Dansby, if he was getting closer to playing.
“He is,” he said. “He had a good day (Wednesday) and did a little bit more. He did the team work and also did some stuff off to the side.”
“(Thursday) will be a better test for him, but he’s doing better.”
DB Donte Whitner (illness) and OL Joe Thomas (rest) returned to practice Thursday. TE Gary Barnidge (ribs), DB K’Waun Williams (hamstring) and DB Robert Nelson (hamstring) were on the stationary bikes.
“Barnidge is getting closer, still don’t know on K’Waun,” Pettine said. Whitner is back and Gip (Tashaun Gipson) is edging closer. “
Pettine said Gipson is improving.
“The outlook is a little more optimistic than it was.”
Gipson said Monday he is hopeful of playing next week against the Panthers.