Johnny Manziel is slated to make his CFL debut this week, but is it the first small step on a trip back to the NFL?
Without any serious NFL options, Johnny Manziel got back into pro football by recently signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL. He’ll be operating as the backup to Jeremiah Masoli until further notice, but on Monday, Ti-Cats head coach June Jones said he expects Manziel to make his CFL debut in a preseason game against the Toronto Argonauts on Friday.
“I don’t want to put him in the game and have him not know what exactly where everyone is going to be,” Jones said, per TSN. “That comes from repetitions. So, he’s not all the way caught up where Jeremiah is. So, I’m going to have him do things that he knows and does, and I’ll get a list from him of the things he feels comfortable with and those will be the things he does.”
Different rules in Canada and two full seasons out of football have to lower initial expectations for Manziel. But even in a preseason game, his first CFL action will garner plenty of attention.
Manziel surfaced at pro days at the University of San Diego and Texas A&M (his alma mater, of course) this spring. But no NFL teams seemed to seriously consider signing him, and he played in a short spring league before signing with Hamilton north of the border.
Doug Flutie, who had great success for a long time in the CFL before returning to the NFL, recently offered a blunt, honest assessment of the steep learning curve Manziel has ahead of him. And the recent, seemingly sudden retirement of former NFL quarterback Josh Freeman, after making a comeback attempt with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, is a clear sign of how tough it is to make it in that league. Upon signing with the Alouettes, Freeman dismissed skepticism of the move to the CFL as a need for money by saying, “I like playing football.” Less than three weeks after saying that, Freeman called it quits.
If Manziel wants to maintain any chance to get back to the NFL, he has to start somewhere, and the CFL is the best landing spot. But he’s also really being promised nothing, other than an opportunity to earn a roster spot, for the first time in the high levels of his football career.