XFL commissioner Oliver Luck: It 'remains to be seen' if league will welcome Johnny Manziel

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Johnny Manziel wants to keep playing football.

The XFL is looking for players.

But does the XFL want Manziel? The league’s commissioner isn’t ready to say.

‘That remains to be seen’

Manziel, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2015 but has spent some time in the CFL and, earlier this spring, in the Alliance of American Football, said earlier this month that he’d like to play in the XFL, calling it a “great opportunity.”

But on Saturday, Oliver Luck, the XFL’s CEO and commissioner, told USA Today Sports that it’s up to the upstart league’s general managers/coaches.

Johnny Manziel would like to play for one of the two Texas XFL teams, but will he get that chance? (AP)
Johnny Manziel would like to play for one of the two Texas XFL teams, but will he get that chance? (AP)

“Well, I don’t know that yet,” Luck said. “That remains to be seen.”

Luck was in Springfield, Virginia, about 15 miles southwest of Washington D.C., where the XFL was holding one of its invitation-only workouts for prospective players. There will be one workout in each of the eight cities that will have an XFL team, giving around 800 players the chance to show coaches what they can do.

Manziel has said he’d like to play for the Dallas or Houston team, but didn’t receive an invitation to either workout.

‘Johnny has some tape, right?’

Luck said an invitation to a workout isn’t necessary to be part of the league, which is expected to hold its first draft in October and begin play in February.

Manziel signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL in late 2017, and was the team’s backup quarterback before being traded to the Montreal Alouettes last July. However, after appearing in eight games for Montreal, he was released by the team and effectively the league in February.

In a statement, the CFL said Manziel had “contravened the agreement that made him eligible to play” and that the CFL wouldn’t register the contract if another club tried to sign Manziel.

Manziel debuted with the AAF’s Memphis Express less than a month later. But in quick succession, Manziel suffered a concussion in his second game and the league folded.

“There are a lot of guys that played in the AAF and played all seven games or whatever they had. We didn’t invite them here because we’ve got enough tape on them,” Luck said. “So Johnny has some tape, right? Whether it’s Canada — and we have two coaches from the CFL, [Marc] Trestman and June Jones. Or there’s college. What he did obviously in the NFL.

“If eight guys say, ‘We’d like that guy in the league,’ we’ll put him in the league. Or put him in the draft pool. Whether teams draft him, that’s up to the individual head coaches.”

Jones has been named GM and head coach of the Houston XFL team, and Manziel played for him in Hamilton.

NFL castoffs will get second chance

The XFL draft will be held in October in large part because it will be after NFL teams have to cut down their 90-man training camp rosters to meet the regular-season limit of 53 (plus practice squads).

Luck sees many of those players who see their NFL dream dashed getting picked up by the XFL.

“A lot of this, you have to kind of look a little bit ahead and think about the kind of talent that we’ll have, right?,” he said. “So last week in Dallas, Landry Jones participated. He just got cut from the Raiders. He was sort of in a battle for I guess the backup spot to Derek Carr, with Mike Glennon. So that might happen three or four times with others in similar situations.

“There’s a lot of good players in that league that very well could get cut. Like Landry. So we have to make sure we kind of keep that in mind as we think about how we structure our draft pool.”

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