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Manziel Mr. Popular, Browns tap brakes

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: May 22 2014 01:30:45 PM CDT
Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns jersey, NFL Draft

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine realized long ago that drafting Johnny Manziel meant welcoming the equivalent of a media and public rock-star in terms of player popularity.

Pettine and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam communicated to Manziel that he is not in the Berea, Ohio, team facility as "Johnny Football" and Haslam went so far as to encourage Manziel to "act like a backup."

With incumbent starter Brian Hoyer back on the field this week as organized team activities advance, general manager Ray Farmer added his two cents, saying Hoyer is well ahead of Manziel "by a substantial margin" as an NFL quarterback.

That won't dissuade fans and media clamoring to see Manziel climb into the cockpit of the Cleveland offense to see if he just might be able to make the same brand of magic he did as a Heisman Trophy winner at Texas A&M.

"(Manziel) will be the first one to tell you that he earned 'Johnny Football' as a college quarterback, and he knows he has to earn it as an NFL quarterback," Pettine told NFL Network on Thursday. "We're not going to let jersey sales determine our depth chart."

Hoyer met the news of Manziel's addition with three words, according to Pettine.

"He said, 'Bring it on,'" Pettine said.

Hoyer, 28, knows what it means to toil as a backup. He was undrafted out of Michigan State in 2009 but signed with the New England Patriots to sit behind Tom Brady and bounced from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Arizona Cardinals in 2012 before he joined the Browns last season as a backup to Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden.

Hoyer is not far ahead of the competition in new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense. He has more experience in totality, but made only three starts and is still recovering from a torn ACL. Part of his recovery was embracing the ongoing battle for a starting job.

"It was almost a sense of relief when he was drafted," Hoyer said, "because I knew exactly right then and there what it was going to be."

Manziel and St. Louis Rams rookie defensive end Michael Sam are 1-2 in rookie jersey sales, according to the NFL.

The Browns are doing their best to crush the constant buzz around Manziel. Already they limited national media access during offseason workouts. Pettine clarified Thursday that Manziel is not even the No. 2 quarterback on the roster -- journeyman newcomer Tyler Thigpen currently holds that distinction.

Pettine experienced a media storm around New York Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez as a member of the coaching staff. He also worked as defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills last season, when first-round pick EJ Manuel became the starting quarterback amidst constant attention.

"I don't know how much of an effect it had, but I think what we're planning to do is just limit it as best we can, not to encourage it," he said. "We know the fire is burning, but we just don't want to throw gas on it."