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Browns QB Johnny Manziel not taking opportunity lightly

Standing behind a podium after two of the toughest weeks of his NFL career, Johnny Manziel called himself "obviously very fortunate" to be back in the role as Cleveland's starting quarterback.

His demotion from starting quarterback to third-string leading into Cleveland's Monday Night Football game against the Ravens, and his subsequent role as the backup to Austin Davis for last week's loss to the Bengals, was "a hard lesson" he's ready to leave in the past as he prepares for Sunday's game against the 49ers.

"I had to learn it the hard way," Manziel said. "I am lucky to be back in the position that I am in and being the starter again. I am definitely not taking it lightly, that's for sure."

"I am just sitting here today very thankful to be back in this role to be back in front of these guys and be in the huddle calling the plays again and trying to go out and salvage what is left of this season and take some pride in these last four games."

For Manziel, his on-field focus centers on the good that came from his last start, a 372-yard effort at Pittsburgh that drew rave reviews from coach Mike Pettine and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. It was a big step in the right direction for Manziel on the field that was followed by a step backward away from it.

As Pettine said Wednesday, there's so much more to being an NFL quarterback than what happens between the lines, and Manziel acknowledged that fact Wednesday.

"There is a way to conduct yourself that 31 other guys in the league do each and every week," Manziel said. "You have to follow that example and realize that this is a very prestigious situation that I am in being a starting quarterback in the NFL. I have to take pride in that and act accordingly."

If Manziel completes this upcoming four-game stretch of starts, it will be his longest string of games as a starting quarterback since his 2013 season at Texas A&M. It's a chance to show he can be a consistent option at one of the toughest positions in sports against a string of opponents that only gets tougher with each passing week.

After the 49ers on Sunday, Manziel would be set to face Seattle and Kansas City on the road before taking on Pittsburgh at FirstEnergy Stadium to close out the 2015 season. His mind isn't wandering beyond that, even when he was asked about what the next four starts mean for his future with the Browns in 2016 and beyond.

"I am excited to get these starts for the remainder of the season and put my total at seven or eight starts over the past couple years," Manziel said. "For me and my progression as a quarterback, it is another time to go out with these guys and try to get a win and put our team and our offense in a position to score more points than they do."

When Manziel last saw the field, he had a full arsenal of receivers at his disposal. Against the 49ers, he could be without a significant chunk of that group, as Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins have been sidelined with concussions since Manziel's last start and leading receiver Travis Benjamin is dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice Wednesday.

Like Davis did against the Bengals, Manziel will strive to bring the best out of whomever is on the field with him during an opportunity he's not taking lightly.

"Would it be nice to have some of those guys back? Sure, but we can only play with whoever we have on Sunday," Manziel said. "I know whoever is in there is going to go and fight extremely hard. I don't have any doubts about those guys coming in and playing hard."

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