After rumors of negotiations with the Canadian Football League and after a public relations tour on television and podcasts over the last few days, it appears as though the comeback season — wait, sorry... the ComebackSZN! — of Johnny Manziel is happening. As reported in a statement provided by Manziel himself to Bleacher Report, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and two-year NFL washout in Cleveland will be playing in Austin, Texas in something called the Spring League, starting in late March:
"Football has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. Sometimes you take for granted how much you value something until it's gone. My goal is to make it back to the NFL and I realize I have to earn that privilege. The Spring League has provided me with a great opportunity to play ball again, and ultimately, that is all I want to do. I miss the competition. I'd like to thank Brian Woods and The Spring League staff for this opportunity to play the game I love. I've made my share of mistakes, but I'm 25 years old and I know my best football is ahead of me."
For those unfamiliar with the Spring League, it is heading into its second season, after an inaugural season held in West Virginia in 2017. The league consists of four teams playing two games over roughly a three-week period from late March through mid-April. Manziel will play for the South team.
Among the players who played snaps in the 2017 iteration of the Spring League were running back Fred Jackson, tight end Kellen Winslow II, quarterback Ricky Stanzi and running back Ahmad Bradshaw. Manziel made his announcement via Twitter, as well:
Back in Texas where it all started. I'll be joining @TheSpringLeague in Austin to get #ComebackSZN started! Can't wait to get back on the field and show NFL scouts what I can do! #cantwaitforspring pic.twitter.com/zMk5223HCc— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) February 14, 2018
OK, as the resident Manziel-o-phile here at the Houston Press, as you can imagine, I have a few thoughts on these developments:
4. At least the "ComebackSZN" gear is factual now.
As fresh as Johnny's gear looks in his online store, it's kind of hard to have a "ComebackSZN" when you're not actually performing the comeback. Eventually, you need to, y'know, DO SOMETHING (other than print hoodies) to have it be a real comeback. Honestly, Manziel's comeback from his 18 month drunken bender back to the world of sobriety is probably a worthy comeback to those close to him. To the rest of us, we want to see if the guy can play football, and now, we will get that chance in SOME form.
3. The Spring League struck four weeks of gold.
How great is this for the Spring League, which I'm guessing 99.9999 percent of the people reading about Manziel's announcement didn't even know existed until they read the article? The Spring League has gotten more free pub from Johnny's tweet and articles like this one than they could get in ten years of conventional advertising. The CEO of the Spring League is someone named Brian Woods, and he is understandably thrilled:
"We're excited to have such a dynamic player in Johhny Manziel taking part in the Spring League," Spring League CEO Brian Woods said in a statement provided to Bleacher Report. "We believe our platform is the ideal forum for Mr. Manziel to enact his NFL comeback."
My request to Mr. Woods — get some security to keep Johnny the hell away from Sixth Street, please!
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2. This whole thing will still need to go through Canada.
OK, now that we have the pleasantries about the Spring League out of the way, let's get to some truth here — Manziel is not getting a shot at the NFL based off two games of essentially intramural ball in Austin, Texas. There's just too much baggage there from his past in Cleveland, his various missteps after leaving the NFL, and the window he opened into his mental issues on Good Morning, America this week. These things all SCARE NFL teams.
So while Johnny farts around with this "league" in Austin, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are waiting for him up in Canada to try to invoke the ComebackSZN north of the border. I've said it many times, Johnny Manziel's only road back to the NFL goes through Canada (and even with success up there, the NFL likely will not happen for him ever again). June Jones is the head coach of Hamilton, and he actually WANTS to coach Manziel! The style of play and size of the field are perfectly suited for a physically fit and mentally healthy Manziel to run roughshod over the other eight teams in the league. The CFL starts its preseason schedule toward the end of May, so this Spring League is not precluding Manziel from signing on with the CFL, except that my guess is Hamilton would like to plan for its season, and the sooner Manziel signs, the sooner they can make plans, design a playbook, etc. The people close to Manziel need to explain this to him, because feeding the delusion that an NFL team will invite him to camp this summer is detrimental to the ComebackSZN.
1. It is AWESOME having some version of Johnny Football actually playing football back in our lives!
All of that said, even if I feel like Manziel playing in this Spring League instead of making Canadian travel plans is the wrong choice for him, I am excited to watch Manziel play in any kind of football game, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't check my calendar to see if I could squeeze in a trip to Austin in early April.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.