USA TODAY Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes discusses Johnny Manziel’s roller-coaster football career and his opportunity with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
USA TODAY Sports
Johnny Manziel’s Canadian Football League debut with the Montreal Alouettes could have been better.
In making his first professional football start since December 2015 while with the Cleveland Browns, Manziel threw four interceptions … all of which came in the first half of a 50-11 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
It did not go well from the start. Two of Manziel’s first four passes were picked off by his former CFL team. A third interception came early in the second quarter. The fourth interception came late in the second quarter with his team down 35-3 and the game already out of reach.
Manziel’s first pass attempt was a completion on a shovel pass to B.J. Cunningham, but it went for a 5-yard loss. On the Alouettes’ next play, Manziel threw into coverage and was intercepted.
Following a blocked punt returned for another Tiger-Cats touchdown, Manziel threw interception No. 2, though it would be hard to blame him for this pick. After showing some of his familiar scrambling skills while eluding a handful of Hamilton pass rushers, Manziel’s throw bounced off the hands of running back Tyrell Sutton and into the arms of Tiger-Cats defensive back Jumal Rolle.
Rolle also collected Manziel’s third interception. A clearly frustrated Manziel made the tackle on the play. Manziel finished the game with two tackles.
While under pressure in the pocket, Manziel chucked pick No. 4. Manziel never had more than two interceptions in an NFL game (he had two picks in his first NFL start, a 30-0 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2014).
With the Tiger-Cats up 47-3 in the fourth quarter, Vernon Adams Jr. relieved Manziel, whose final stat line included 11 completions on 20 attempts for 104 yards.
“This is a humbling experience,” Manziel said. “I’ve had this experience in the past and there are two ways you go about this moving forward. One, you can let it get you down and sulk and harm you moving forward. The other way is to take this on the chin like a man and never let this taste creep back in your mouth again and never let it happen again. This will motivate me.”
Manziel’s last professional start on Dec. 27, 2015 resulted in a 17-13 loss for the Browns to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Less than three months later, the Browns cut Manziel. Off-the-field issues, including substance abuse and a domestic-violence case, led to his release.
This year, Manziel’s attempt to resurrect his professional football career went from participating in the pro days of the University of San Diego and Texas A&M, to playing in The Spring League and then going to the Canadian Football League.
Signed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in May, Manziel served as the backup to Jeremiah Masoli. On July 22, Manziel was traded to the Alouettes in a move that reunited the quarterback with coach Mike Sherman, who recruited the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner at Texas A&M.
Manziel is the fourth different starting quarterback — joining Drew Willy, Jeff Mathews and Adams — that the Alouettes have used this season.
Contributing: The Associated Press.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.
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