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To be fair, when Johnny Manziel said on NFL draft night that he was going to “wreck this league,” he didn’t say which league.
Manziel is back in football. The former Cleveland Browns’ first-round pick who last played in the NFL in 2015, signed with the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, he said on Twitter. He said it’s for “what looks like two years.” He said he missed playing football, and that’s why he signed.
Made the decision today to sign my contract with the CFL and further my football career after a long break. Very grateful for everyone that’s been supporting me along the way. I believe this is the best opportunity for me moving forward and I’m eager for what the future holds.
— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) May 19, 2018
With that, the CFL became more interesting this season.
A long road back
Manziel flamed out spectacularly in the NFL. He was admittedly not prepared to be a pro quarterback, and created many more headlines off the field than he made plays on the field. Manziel said he has stopped drinking and now takes medication for bipolar disorder.
That still didn’t mean the NFL was ready to welcome him back. Manziel has been touting his comeback through social media for a while. But The path back to the NFL wasn’t going to be that easy, as he got no real interest. He had to go and prove himself again, and the CFL might be perfect for that.
CFL’s game should fit Manziel’s style
While Manziel has become a punch line over the years, he’s also one of the most exciting players in college football history. His free-wheeling style was perfect for Texas A&M, and it should translate well to the larger CFL field too. That’s assuming he hasn’t lost most of his skills during a long layoff. However, it’s also easy to see Manziel, assuming he’s focused and in shape, doing the same things on a CFL field that helped win him a Heisman Trophy.
The CFL has been interested in Manziel for a while. First, he should be a box-office draw. Even though Manziel hasn’t played in the NFL in almost three years, he’s still one of the most famous names (or, perhaps infamous is more accurate) in professional football. Also, if he plays like he did at Texas A&M and for brief flashes with the Browns, he should be a very good player in that league.
The Tiger-Cats’ preseason opener is June 1. Their regular-season opener is June 16 against Calgary.
The NFL will be watching
NFL teams have not been fighting to get Manziel into a camp. NFL teams watched Manziel at a couple college pro days this offseason, but that story got overblown. He was asked by college players if he could throw to them during their workouts. It’s not like NFL teams were there just to see him. However, the teams were there and got to see he has been working out. They’ll keep eyes on his CFL games to see if he can still make the plays that led to him being a first-round pick. The NFL has plenty of unexciting quarterbacks on the back ends of rosters; Manziel could prove to be an upgrade. But he has to prove he’s worth their time, on and off the field.
Manziel has a long way to go to get back in the NFL, because the truth is he wasn’t good enough to be worth the headaches. But there had to be a legitimate first step toward rehabilitating his career, and the CFL might be perfect for that.
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