Johnny Manziel and Browns coach Mike Pettine shared a laugh Wednesday after what appeared to be the young quarterback's best practice of training camp.
The calm compared to last year's storm of national attention has been a breath of fresh air for both, and Manziel credits it as one of the many reasons why he's been able to make a "solid progression" through the first week of training camp.
"It is nice to come out here and wear any kind of shoes I want and that is not the main story the next day," Manziel said. "I don't have to have this, this and this … (I am) not a rookie anymore. I have kind of gone through the ringer in a year and got to see everything. Now it is – coming out here and getting better. There is not as much pressure or hype.
"I am just another guy on the team."
On the field and in the meeting rooms, Manziel has been all business since he returned to Berea for OTAs. Even during his five-week break between mini-camp and the start of training camp, Manziel went through individual workouts with ESPN's Jon Gruden and arrived back in Berea one week ahead of schedule.
It hasn't gone unnoticed.
Pettine said Wednesday that Manziel is in a "good place," especially when he's inside the Browns Training Facility. His rapport with new quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is strong, and all four Browns quarterbacks are holding each other accountable, Pettine said. Before he met with reporters Thursday, Manziel signed autographs for nearly 30 minutes and sat with O'Connell's family in the end zone of one of the team's practice fields.
"Now it's a really simple schedule; just come to work every day, be in the building, do what I'm supposed to do and everything else will take care of itself," Manziel said. "Just do the next right thing and things will be good. That's where I'm at right now."
At this time last year, Manziel was entrenched in an open quarterback competition with veteran Brian Hoyer. Though Pettine hasn't named a starter for Cleveland's Sept. 13 season opener against the New York Jets, veteran Josh McCown has taken every repetition with the first-team offense and is "firmly" the first-team quarterback.
Manziel, though, will get a chance at Friday's Orange and Brown scrimmage to show whether he can carry over his success with the second-team offense to the first group. Pettine said he'll get some repetitions with Joe Thomas, Alex Mack, Brian Hartline and the rest of the first-team offense in order to prepare him, like any other backup quarterback, to take the reins in the event of an injury to the starter.
Connor Shaw and Thaddeus Lewis will also work with the first-team offense at some point during training camp, Pettine said.
"You don't want the first time that he's out there with that group of guys to be in a game," Pettine said. "I wouldn't read too much into it that he's going with the ones."
The hierarchy doesn't concern Manziel, not this early in training camp and not after last year, when he admittedly got caught up in the daily distribution of repetitions. His relationship with McCown, a fellow Texan, is strong, and the two constantly have been seen interacting after plays and celebrating when the other makes a sharp throw.
"I'd never really been a backup before, so this year I'm definitely just trying to take a different approach," Manziel said. "If I take care of my business and show that I'm getting better and go out in the preseason and play well, then who knows what will happen."
Manziel's performance over the past two practices, in particular, have been filled with obvious moments of improvement. During Thursday's 11-on-11 red zone period, Manziel appeared to make a change at the line of scrimmage before finding rookie Shane Wynn in the back of the end zone with an accurate throw. On the next play, Manziel went through his progressions before locating a wide-open Shaun Draughn on a wheel route for another touchdown.
On Wednesday, Manziel showed off his arm with a 50 yard completion to Wynn down the right sidelines.
From what Pettine's seen behind the closed doors of the Browns facility, plays like this don't come as much of a surprise.
"When you come in every day with a great attitude and you work and it's important to you, you can't help but get better," Pettine said. "I'm just happy for him that he's getting the results on the field and the guys around him sense that as well."