Johnny Manziel wasn’t talking about his behavior in Texas A&M’s game, so it was left to his coach to discuss the actions that led to the Heisman Trophy winner being flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and benched.
Coach Kevin Sumlin corrected the impression that Manziel ignored him as Sumlin was yelling at him for the personal foul, called after the quarterback pointed to the scoreboard and exchanged words with a Rice defender.
“When he came off the field, basically I made two statements to him, neither one of which should he have responded to,” Sumlin said. “They weren’t questions. They were direct statements that I can’t repeat right now. So 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.”
Brian Urlacher, the former Chicago Bears linebacker who now is Fox Sports commentator, said Manziel “acted like a punk,” but Sumlin denied that’s a culture surrounding his team.
“For people to say ‘You know what, he’s not listening to his coach and there’s no discipline on this team,’ they’re not around this football team,” Sumlin said. “They’re not around this program. A lot of people who have made statements about that weren’t anywhere near the sideline. I haven’t heard one guy or any person who was near that sideline, who heard [what] was said, speak up about what happened. So, you can get different perspectives sitting in a studio or behind a television than you would have gotten live. That’s where we are with that.”
Manziel, who was suspended for the first half of the Rice game after an NCAA investigation found he received no money for autographs, didn’t help himself when he got onto the field by pretending to sign autographs and rubbing his fingers together in some sort of money gesture. There for the world to see was the delicate balance that Sumlin must strike in dealing with Manziel.
“Anybody who watches Johnny knows that he plays with a lot of emotion and a lot of passion in this game. Because of that, he gets into a gray area,” Sumlin said. “It’s our job as coaches to keep that passion and energy going, but make it positive. Does that make sense? That was a discussion that we had yesterday, not just with him, but with a lot of players.
“What you don’t want to do is kill that emotion and that passion because I think it’s what separates Johnny from a lot of different players. What we can do is sit down and say, ‘Hey listen, that same emotion and that same passion can be used positively, and here’s how you’ve got to do that.’”