BEREA, Ohio (AP) – Johnny Manziel says the party’s over. The Browns want to believe him.
The high-profile rookie quarterback apologized to his Browns teammates – and Cleveland fans – Monday for a season of distractions and vowed again to change.
Manziel was fined over the weekend by the team after he missed a medical treatment for a hamstring injury. Manziel said he overslept, but denied he threw a party Friday night that also caused star wide receiver Josh Gordon to miss a team walk-through and draw a suspension for the season finale in Baltimore.
Just last week, Manziel, who made two starts after replacing Brian Hoyer, promised a new approach.
Johnny Football said he means it this time.
“It’s about actions,” he said. “It’s about being accountable and doing what I’m going to say.”
The Browns have heard Manziel make similar promises in the past and are counting on him to keep his word.
“He realizes this, that at some point, talk is cheap,” coach Mike Pettine said. “To me, the actions are much more important than what he says.”
The 22-year-old Manziel shot down reports he hosted a party that was attended by teammates, including the troubled Gordon whom Pettine said is “squarely in a crossroads with us” because of his many missteps the past two seasons.
Manziel said he let his “guard down a little bit” and went out Friday night with friends who were visiting from Kerrville, Texas. When he was late for his treatment Saturday, the Browns sent security personnel to his home.
“It was a mistake by me,” he said. “At the same time, you can sit here and say and talk and say this all you want, but when your actions don’t reflect that, and you make a conscious decision to put yourself in the position that you stay out too late and not wake up the next morning, that’s going to cause a lot of trouble, so I did that to myself. I brought this on myself.”
Manziel acknowledges he’s responsible for much of the media commotion surrounding the team.
“I don’t think it’s fair to anybody in this locker room the distractions I’ve brought at points in time,” he said. “So I’m sorry to these guys that are veterans in this locker room and know what it takes, that I’m having to learn the hard way.”
He added, tellingly, that he better do that, or there will be consequences.
“I’m either going to learn or I’m going to be finding something else to do,” he said.
Pettine, who also suspended rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert for “multiple violations” of team rules for Sunday’s game, said Manziel has no excuse for being late for treatment.
“We hold the quarterback to a higher standard than everybody else,” he said. “That just comes with the territory at that position. Has his behavior been disappointing? Absolutely.”
The Browns drafted Manziel in the first round with the hope he would develop into their future quarterback. But the former college star’s taste for clubs and weekends in Las Vegas raised immediate questions about his commitment, and when Manziel was on the field he looked overwhelmed and unprepared.
While some Cleveland fans have called for the team to cut Manziel and Gordon, Pettine said the Browns won’t do anything rash.
With Manziel’s issues and Hoyer’s impending free agency, the Browns enter the offseason with as many questions about the quarterback situation as ever.
“The sample size on Manziel was not very big, and on the surface not very encouraging,” he said. “I would say our quarterback picture is muddy, at best.”
Hoyer had the Browns in playoff contention before falling apart. He said it would be a “great scenario” to continue to play in his hometown.
“But you always want to be wanted back and that’s not up to me,” he said, adding he has gotten no indication from the Browns that he’s part of their plans.
Pettine isn’t optimistic Hoyer will return.
Manziel hopes he can be the answer and feels he made progress. First, though, he has to take things more seriously.
“There have been some good things and bad things,” he said. “But I’m still an extremely competitive person and know what I want to do in my life. I know what is important to me and now it is time to come in here, look myself in the mirror and hold myself accountable and start making some deals with myself.”
Manziel understands he hasn’t been fair to Browns fans, but mostly he’s cheated himself.
“I’m upset with how I have handled things at times,” he said. “I did grow up and then I took a step back. It is the same story with me. We’re taking one step forward and then two steps back. Now it is really in my court.”
And that means a good hard look in the mirror.
“Do I want to be known as a guy who has been in this league two years and now doing something different with his life,” he said. “Or come in here, give this thing a fair chance and … be the quarterback and person I know I am.”