Johnny Manziel: There's no extra pressure


The legend about Duke Johnson Jr. at Texas A&M, was that when the stage got bigger and the lights got brighter, the quarterback played his absolute best.

The Cleveland Browns' quarterback competition will come down to who performs the best in games. Head coach Mike Pettine has alluded to that fact several times, and he intends on declaring a Week One starter early next week.

Still, Manziel is still in the infant stages of his career. He feels no heavy burden to go out on Monday night in Washington and try to be the hero.

"I don't think that there's any pressure for me," said Manziel. "I think I'm still learning. I'm still growing. This is my second game. My expectations aren't through the roof. It's to go out and compete extremely hard, be a leader for those guys whatever group I'm with and see what happens."

Manziel isn't putting on some front at the podium answering questions. He knows he's a work in progress. Later in his press conference he emphatically stated: "I don't look at it as I was drafted to come in day one and save the franchise. From Ray Farmer to everyone involved in this organization, they have a plan for me. And they want me to be successful. Whenever that is, my future is here."

While he may not be trotting out to start the game against the Redskins, Manziel will see plenty of action in the first half. Against the Lions, the rookie completed 63.6 percent of his 11 passes.

This SB Nation breakdown of Manziel’s first game against Detroit accurately describes what is separating Manziel from most other rookies: his demeanor. In Manziel's mind, and even more importantly Pettine's, a strong performance on ESPN could tip the scale in favor of the 21-year-old.

"I don't know the exact percentage/chances of it, but I think, from what coach Pettine and every else has stated from the very beginning, they said that it was an equal, open competition and I don't think that's changed," said Manziel.

The background noise that comes with Manziel is not going away anytime soon. The moment Manziel beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the scrutiny surrounding him amplified. And it's only grown.

After winning the Heisman trophy, doubters said that he would be the most likely for a sophomore slump. Instead, he posted even better statistics against brutally tough SEC defenses. Then came the knocks on his height during the NFL scouting combine and pro day workouts. He still proved to be worthy of a first-round selection.

Manziel hopes the racket surrounding who he is as a quarterback stays.

"The chaos, the talk, the hype, the overreaction, the over-analysis has been from the day I won the Heisman to that spring, to that fall, to the draft, to now," said Manziel. "If you look at it, [scrutiny's] been a constant in my life. It's been the one thing that's been the most constant in my life."

If there's anything Manziel is looking to improve on the field against the Redskins, it comes from the mental side. He trusts his arm strength. He trusts his legs. He trusts the play calls. Now, it's just about translating all of that at a more rapid pace.

"It's like learning Spanish really for the first few weeks," said Manziel. "But now getting into it, I'm able to retain a picture of the play in my head as it's said and really progressing it better."

Eventually Manziel will be fluent in Spanish. Preseason games like the one against the Redskins are where he's able to grow the most.

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