Johnny Manziel’s gesture teaches NFL opponents all they need to know about him


Johnny Manziel gets an earful from Brian Orakpo. (Richard Lipski / AP)

Johnny Manziel, who morphed from Johnny Football into Johnny Finger in one awful moment on national TV Monday night, was full of remorse after his obscene gesture toward the Washington Redskins.

Manziel had little explanation for flipping off the Redskins with a middle finger, a gesture caught on “Monday Night Football,” and his teammates offered a tepid defense for a rookie quarterback who has struggled mightily in the spotlight since being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in May. His opponents, though, were lapping up the new knowledge about him.

“I wouldn’t have did it,” cornerback Joe Haden said after the game. Haden’s point is that Manziel can’t let proddings get to him.

“If you stand on our sideline, it’s so bad,” Haden said (via Cleveland.com). “The whole time, everybody was talking, just the worst things you could ever imagine about Johnny. I was next to him a lot of times on the sideline. He gets a lot of grief. You’ve just got to try to not listen to it.”

Brian Orakpo was one of the chief needlers, saying he told Manziel, “this ain’t college and stuff like that. We were having a little fun.” Haden, though, said Manziel hears it “from everybody. Their bench, their fans, everybody. There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of pressure on him. Just people talking. It can get a little bit overwhelming. He gets a lot of attention. There’s a lot of people that just scream out things that are very, very disrespectful. You’ve just got to zone it out.”

The man Manziel is battling for the starting spot thinks Manziel needs greater awareness and a centeredness.

“I think the main thing is you’ve just got to know the cameras are always on,” Brian Hoyer said. “That’s the only thing you can say.”

He’s likely to get fined for it, although a monetary penalty is the least of his worries.

You’d think Manziel would have long ago gained that awareness, after a summer in which his every partying moment was captured in video and photo form, but he showed, in a meaningless game, that his head can be messed with. That’s a big, big tell for his opponents.

“I just need to let it slide off my back and go to the next play,” Manziel said. “I felt like I did a good job of holding my composure throughout the night and you have a lapse of judgment and slip up.” Manziel, told by a member of the PR staff that the gesture had been caught on camera, winced.

“I get words exchanged with me throughout the entirety of the game, every game, week after week,” he said. “I should’ve been smarter. It was a ‘Monday Night Football’ game. The cameras were probably solidly on me, so I just need to be smarter about that.”

That’s becoming a facile refrain for Johnny Football.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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