Jun 8, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel sit court side in game two of the 2014 NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Manziel: Should we care about off-field antics?

A topic that is not sure to go away any time soon is what Johnny Manziel does with his weekends. Especially given that there are still at least two full weeks left of the NFL’s “summer vacation” before training camps open at the end of July. From now until then there are plenty more opportunities for anyone in certain party spots to be able to snag a pic of Johnny Manziel doing something that’s going to land him on another article about what he should or shouldn’t be doing with his free time. The question for NFL fans is should we care what Johnny Manziel does in his free time?

Johnny Manziel was a polarizing figure way before he even declared for the NFL draft so it should come as no surprise that his name is mentioned so frequently even before taking a single snap in a professional football game. However, with the Browns organization fanning the flames, so to speak, by continuing to attempt to have Johnny “tone it down” it’s almost as if he’s his own never ending news cycle.

At the end of June while Manziel was taking part in the NFL Play 60 youth clinic at the Browns’ facilities he was inevitably asked about his partying tendencies and whether or not that will be affecting his playing abilities once the season starts. To which he was defiant, but justifiably defiant, about what he has a right to do in his spare time.

“I want to wake up with a week and not have my name going through something. And I’m working on getting better at that, but if I want to go back home and spend time with my friends or go out and enjoy my weekends, I absolutely have the right to do that.” – Johnny Manziel

He didn’t even make a week from making that statement before a picture started circulating of him with Tyrese Gibson, Floyd Mayweather, and none other than Justin Bieber. A “selfie” of the “boys” (as Bieber called them) hanging out at a party thrown by Bieber at his Beverly Hills home. Does Johnny Manziel have every right to attend a party at Justin Bieber’s house if he wants to? Absolutely. This does nothing to damage his potential as an NFL quarterback. Only proves that he might just be as douchey as he is suspected of being. Even the most earnest of Manziel supporters are undoubtedly questioning their faith in Johnny Football now that there is a substantial Bieber connection. Justin Bieber, as ESPN North blogger Scott Brown puts it, is “a walking instruction guide for how not to handle fame.”

Clearly no one with a single rational thought in their head can actually make a credible argument that if Johnny Manziel parties with celebrities in his free time it will directly negatively affect his playing abilities. The problem here is that is he going to be more trouble than he’s worth? At this point, the Browns themselves aren’t willing to place him any higher than 2nd on the quarterback depth chart, he hasn’t played a single NFL down, and his skill-set is already debatable as to whether or not it is viable in the NFL in the first place. A player with that many question marks in the “How can he contribute to the team?” column certainly should be doing all he can to avoid negative attention, right?

The NFL is full of the old-fashioned types who will say that Manziel has to pay his dues and earn the right to get so much attention. That he is directly harming his veteran teammates by becoming a bigger celebrity than anyone else on the Browns roster combined. They are the same ones that balk at every picture of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski out shirtless at a concert. There’s an old-school mentality in the NFL where a player must pay his dues or earn his fame. But, in reality, Johnny Manziel hasn’t done anything illegal and it would be absurd to think that he’s the only player in the NFL who parties in his free time. Johnny Manziel is just the only, or one of a few, players who run the risk of anyone in camera-phone distance capturing a moment that they might not want to be made public anytime they’re out enjoying their free time.

Jun 4, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel and other team rookies react while they are introduced before a game between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, there is plenty of time away from football for Johnny Manziel before training camp opens. Once the season starts, if there are pictures surfacing of him partying every weekend and spraying people with bottles of champagne the whole “distraction” story earns a bit more traction. The voices saying that Manziel must be solely focused on football and nothing else will be a whole lot louder. Also, the longer there appears to be a power struggle between what the coaches and front office wants Manziel to do and what he’s photographed doing, the story still has interest. Besides the fact that we live in a world where people can’t get enough of watching celebrities act like idiots.

So, the question still remains, should we care what Johnny Manziel does outside of football? If you’re a Cleveland Browns fan, you have to at least to some degree be happy with the amount of interest and excitement Manziel brings to the team. You have to hope that his off-the-field “antics” are just that and that he’s just a 21-year-old kid who is enjoying his life. You also have to hope that he puts just as much, if not more, time into studying his playbook and learning this offense because once he gets his chance on the field he and the rest of us will remember that winning solves all the off-the-field antics you can think of.

Tags: Cleveland Browns Johnny Manziel NFL Rob Gronkowski

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