Johnny Manziel's trip to Las Vegas, which based on his middle-seat coach placement either means he booked last minute or really is taking this "backup QB" stuff a bit too literally, is now front-page news.
A young man who just turned 21 in December and soon will be fairly rich spent a few days in Vegas? You don't say.
Somehow a rehabbing Rob Gronkowski, Manziel's weekend buddy on the trip, is exempt from reproach despite the fact that he's seldom healthy and plays for the biggest taskmaster in the NFL in Bill Belichick. Nary a peep on Gronk.
And yet Manziel is being taken to task for this. We get the whole need for him to study being a quarterback around OTAs and the Cleveland Browns wanting him to stay out of trouble. And yes, there are different rules for Vegas and New Orleans and a few other select cities in this fine country. Heck, there are different rules for quarterbacks. But there clearly is a whole different set entirely for Manziel ... before he ever has taken an NFL snap of meaning.
A throng of media members, both local and national, surrounded Manziel on Wednesday. They asked him a few football questions. But the bulk of their probing was about Vegas and Gronk and whether Manziel is committed to the job. He felt the need to parry the responses, but he shouldn't be asked most of this stuff in the first place until it becomes a problem.
Manziel has done nothing wrong. And he's not apologizing for it, either. Nor should he. Provided he stays out of trouble — anyone know of any arrest warrants? — and works at his craft, he has the right to take weekend trips to Vegas, Vancouver or Valle De La Pascua, Venezuela, if he so chooses.
"I don't live my life according to you guys or according to what other people think of me," Manziel said Wednesday after OTAs, per the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I'm going to live my life to the fullest and continue to be committed to this game, committed to what I need to be doing here and trying to earn my place in this locker room with these coaches, with this organization.
"If I want to go out and have some fun and it doesn't hinder what my main goals in life are, then I don't really care what anybody has to say."
Johnny could work on his delivery a bit. But that doesn't make him wrong. He can go out and have some fun and take some pictures with some girls. Why so many critics?
Johnny Manziel asked if he thought his critics were "puritanical." Responds, "Can I get a definition first?"— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 28, 2014
OK, and he scores points for humor, too. Frankly, we debated writing about this. But it just shows that whatever this young man does this season and beyond — good, bad or otherwise — you're going to hear about it. Everywhere you go and he goes.
"I'm very surprised that it's actually a story," he said. "For me, I've accomplished dreams of mine that I never really thought I'd get a chance to be in this position and I've been here every day working extremely hard. I'm coming in here every day trying to earn my place and do what I need to do.
"For me to get a free weekend to spend some time with friends and family of mine, and to have fun and relax and get away from the grind a little bit and then come back when I'm supposed to and get back to work this week and do what I'm supposed to do, I don't really feel that that's a story.
"It was a little bit of a break for us and got to go enjoy it and relax."
NFL Network even made sure it got in all of this on its live broadcast seconds before it switched gears shockingly on Wednesday and went from the odd line of questioning in Berea, Ohio at Browns headquarters straight to a Suffolk County courtroom where Aaron Hernandez was being arraigned on double murder charges. Translation: Those stories were nearly on even footing in the network's mind.
The Browns seem fine with Manziel and his approach right now. Head coach Mike Pettine, who told his quarterback to "have fun" when told he was going on the trip, said he trusted that Manziel also managed to squeeze in a little studying on the way there and back.
"I know he had his iPad with him," Pettine said, via USA Today. "And I know he wasn't using it as a coaster."
From the comments of Manziel and Pettine, you can almost hear the eye-rolling. But Kyle Shanahan, in that same USA Today story, jokingly said he wished Manziel had invited him on the trip. Heck, maybe he should have — as his advocate and chaperone. Maybe that would have sedated the dogs a bit.
Some of this "What did Johnny do today?" madness will simmer to a low boil at some point. Once the media en masse has seen a few times through training camp and maybe after he has made his preseason debut, the waters will settle a little. But we've seen the power of one Vegas trip, a few harmless photos with Gronk and the media magnet that is Manziel.
As much as we'd love to say that the fascination with him is all football, the evidence to the contrary is shocking.
- - - - - - -