Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel didn't speak to the media until late November last year because of coach Kevin Sumlin's ban on freshman talking to reporters.
Now he's a sophomore and a Heisman Trophy winner, and he's once again being kept from the media. He has served his half-game NCAA suspension and played his first game for the seventh-ranked Aggies, but hasn't spoken publicly since SEC media days this summer.
Sumlin said it isn't the right time for Manziel to talk, but that he will talk at some point this year.
"I think it's important now based on where he is that his focus is to try to be our quarterback and a student athlete," said Sumlin, whose team hosts FCS school Sam Houston State on Saturday night. "That's his biggest challenge right now. (It's) not his challenge to be here."
Sumlin also said that the image in the media of Manziel is so negative right now that his talking would not be beneficial.
"I don't think right now that him coming here and saying the words would change some people's opinion about who he is," Sumlin said. "At the appropriate time he'll be able to speak for himself."
He also brushed off the notion that Manziel disrespected him by not responding when he talked to him following his fourth-quarter unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in last Saturday's season-opening 52-31 win over Rice.
"When he came off the field, I basically made two statements to him, neither one of which should he have responded to," Sumlin said. "They weren't questions. They were direct statements and I can't repeat them right now. What's amazing to me is the perception that he ignored me. The worst thing that could have happened was for him to reply based on what I told him."
Manziel sat out the first half last weekend because of what the school called an "inadvertent" violation of NCAA rules involving signing autographs. Not long after he entered the game in the third quarter he jawed with a Rice defender and appeared to mimic signing an autograph while getting up from a tackle.
His penalty came when he pointed at the scoreboard after throwing his third touchdown pass. Manziel went 6 for 8 for 94 yards and ran six times for 19 yards.
Sumlin said he spoke with several players - not just Manziel - on Monday about how penalties can hurt the entire team and the importance of eliminating them. He said it's a balancing act to keep Manziel from getting in those situations without stifling the exuberance that is part of what has made him so successful.
"Anybody who watches Johnny knows that he plays with a lot of emotion and a lot of passion," Sumlin said. "Because of that he gets into the gray area. It's my job, it's our job as coaches to keep that passion and energy going, but make it positive."
Sumlin does understand that Manziel's antics have made things more difficult for the sophomore quarterback. But he also finds it a bit amusing that Manziel's gesture of rubbing his fingers together became such a big deal when several other Aggies as well as players on other teams have been doing the same thing since last season.
"Has he kind of painted himself in a box with that, with some other issues? Probably," Sumlin said. "But no one wants to be more successful than he is. No one is going to play this game harder than he does and his teammates understand that."
Running back Ben Malena, who rushed for 82 yards and a TD on 12 carries in the opener, agreed and said that the outside perception of Manziel is completely different than his image within the team. He also doesn't mind answering questions about Manziel while the quarterback avoids the press.
"It's just what comes with it," he said. "You want to have a defending Heisman Trophy winner as your quarterback. So it's not bad."
Manziel completed 14 of 20 passes for 267 yards while throwing three TDs and an interception, and he ran 16 times for 100 yards and two scores in a 47-28 win over Sam Houston State on Nov. 17.
The Bearkats, ranked fourth in the FCS, opened this season with a 74-0 victory over Houston Baptist last Saturday. Steven Hicks ran for a touchdown and led a rushing attack that amassed 365 yards.
Hicks rushed for 99 yards and was among four Sam Houston State running backs to gain more than 50 as the Bearkats posted their fifth-highest single-game point total.
"As an offense, we had a great tempo," quarterback Brian Bell told the school's official website. "One of our goals is to have great tempo and to play fast. We went out there and did that offensively and I'm proud of that."
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