BEREA, Ohio -- Johnny Manziel knew how it sounded the second he said it.
So he quickly advised not to take it out of context.
But Manziel had a candid admission after the Cleveland Browns' final training camp practice: “I’m not ready for Pittsburgh right now.”
In the Manziel world, which he admitted Saturday includes “chaos,” “overanalysis” and “hype,” this statement could officially be called a doozy.
Except in the real world of what someone means and intends, a little perspective comes in handy. Manziel wasn’t saying he could not be ready to start the Browns' season opener Sept. 8 in Pittsburgh, just that if he had to play the Steelers now, he would not be. He said he has two more weeks of practices and two more games to prepare, and he said he gets more comfortable each week. Too, coach Mike Pettine altered his stance to say that the starting quarterback probably would get playing time in the fourth preseason game, which if it’s Manziel, gives him more playing time to prepare.
As training camp ends and the regular season gets closer, Manziel is doing his best to downplay expectations. In one media gaggle Saturday, he said, “I need to stay in my lane,” and, “I don’t look at it that I was drafted to come in Day 1 and save the franchise,” and learning the offense “is a process,” and “I’ve only played one game,” and “my expectations are not through the roof.”
This is the humble Manziel, the one who is barely noticed behind the scenes at the team’s office. The confident Manziel is in there, but he’s smartly and wisely leaving that guy to show up on the field. The contrast is stark between the guy who appears on every NFL fan’s social media timeline and the guy trying to win a starting job in his first NFL training camp.
If Manziel was upset about not starting the Browns' second preseason game -- at Washington on Monday night -- he didn't show it. Asked about the fact that Brian Hoyer is getting the start, Manziel said, "I'm taking it with the same approach I've had the past three weeks of camp."
This is a guy who handles questions very adeptly. It’s obvious he’s been through the wringer before, and it’s obvious he understands there is a hierarchy in the NFL, one that states young players should not be heard too loudly until they've produced.
Manziel even shrugs off the louder elements of his life -- the constant attention off the field.
“It’s been a constant in my life,” he said. “It’s been the one thing that’s been the most constant in my life for the past two years. So I don't even pay attention to it anymore, I don't ever really see it; it never really even fazes me.”
It will be interesting to see how Manziel reacts if he is not the starter two years after winning the Heisman Trophy as a freshman.
He had one blip in camp when he misread the schedule and was late for a morning meeting, but otherwise, the only complaint about him is the same one fans of Hoyer might have: He hasn't seized the job. Manziel has worked hard, done his best and tried to go from a simple one-side-of-the-field offense to long play calls and much more complex reads.
At this point for both the quarterbacks, what happens Monday night matters the most.