Browns energize fans by drafting QB Manziel
NFL notes • Ticket sales surge after Cleveland makes pick.
Published: May 10, 2014 10:34AM
Updated: May 9, 2014 11:56PM

Johnny Manziel expects life in the NFL to be even crazier than college.

Selected in the first round of the draft by the Cleveland Browns, Manziel was introduced Friday to a soundtrack of whirring cameras as he took the initial steps of his pro career. Humble and self-assured, Manziel, who raised Texas A&M’s profile with his playmaking ability and “Johnny Football” persona, said he’s entering the league expecting the spotlight to be brighter.

“I’m going in expecting madness,” he said.

Manziel says he’s learned from past mistakes and the 21-year-old vowed to earn the respect of his new Cleveland teammates, some of whom may have their doubts about him.

His arrival in Cleveland has already triggered “Manzelmania” as the Browns have been overwhelmed with sales of season tickets in the hours since they drafted the former Heisman Trophy winner with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night. There were fans waiting outside the team’s headquarters to welcome Manziel when he arrived shortly before noon.

“It means a lot to me obviously, getting a lot of support already,” Manziel said of the buzz he’s created. “But there’s work that needs to be done. There’s things that need to be done. I’m very excited, very eager to be here and really get things rolling.”

Manziel was joined at his introductory news conference by fellow first-round pick Justin Gilbert, the No. 8 overall pick. A cornerback from Oklahoma State, Gilbert said he rolled down his car window and screamed when he heard Manziel was taken by the Browns.

Gilbert was asked if he kept tabs on Manziel’s college career.

“Who didn’t follow him?” the soft-spoken Gilbert said.

Manziel, who posed for photos holding his new No. 2 jersey, insists he’s not burdened by all the attention he receives, and said he’s confident he can separate his celebrity and football lives.

“I think I’m Johnny Manziel,” he said. “Johnny Football is what I am in the media. I accept it, but I know who I am. I’m Johnny Manziel. I don’t let that weigh me down.”

Manziel doesn’t expect to receive any preferential treatment with the Browns. He wasn’t surprised to hear starter Brian Hoyer said “bring it on” when he was told he will be competing with Manziel in training camp.

Manziel acknowledged he has a lot to learn, and that his sole focus is on helping the Browns end years of futility.

“I want to win,” he said. “That’s the main thing for me. I don’t handle losing very well.”

He’s gotten better at handling the constant swirl around him. After he was drafted following a nearly three-hour wait, Manziel went out in New York and celebrated with his family and friends, which reportedly included rapper Drake and Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. There are photos circulating on the Internet of Manziel drinking from a large bottle of champagne.

“I’m 21 years old,” he said when asked about the bubbly.

Bills trade Stevie Johnson to 49ers after Watkins pick

Receiver Stevie Johnson is heading to his hometown San Francisco 49ers after being the odd man out in Buffalo.

The Bills traded Johnson to the 49ers on Friday in deal made before the start of the second round of the NFL draft. In exchange, Buffalo acquired an undisclosed pick next year. ESPN reported it was a conditional fourth-round selection.

The deal was made a day after the Bills traded up five spots to select Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins with the fourth pick.

Watkins’ addition was the latest in a series of moves the Bills have made to restock their receiver position, and it led to Johnson being expendable after six seasons in Buffalo. The Bills also acquired receiver Mike Williams in a trade with Tampa Bay last month. Last year, Buffalo used second- and third-round picks to draft Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin.

Johnson left Buffalo on Thursday, when he was spotted on a flight that landed in Las Vegas about an hour after Buffalo drafted Watkins.

“Today’s decision was not an easy one to make, especially involving a player like Stevie, who leaves everything he has on the field and is an emotional leader in our locker room,” Bills general manager Doug Whaley said. “All of the decisions we make are done so in the best interest of our team.”

The 49ers, by comparison, had a need for receiver and were expected to address the position in the draft. San Francisco instead gained an experienced player in Johnson after losing Mario Manningham in free agency.

Johnson spent the past four seasons as a starter in Buffalo. He became the Bills first player to break 1,000 yards receiving in consecutive seasons in 2010-11, and extended the streak in 2012.

Johnson’s numbers dropped last year, when he finished with 52 catches for 597 yards in 12 games. Aside from being slowed by an assortment of injuries, he was excused by the team for the final two games of the season following the death of his mother.

Overall, he has 301 catches for 3,842 yards and 28 touchdowns in 75 games.

Johnson is from San Francisco and played college at Kentucky. The Bills selected him in the seventh round in 2008.

At 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, Johnson can play on the outside, but is best suited to play an inside slot position.

Johnson is known for his outgoing personality and colorful touchdown celebrations that have, on occasion, got him into trouble.

Former Bills coach Chan Gailey benched Johnson for the final three quarters of Buffalo’s 2011 season finale. The discipline occurred after Johnson was penalized a second time that season for an excessive touchdown celebration.

The Bills, who haven’t made the playoffs in 14 seasons, are counting on Watkins to add a dynamic threat to an offense that lacked consistency last season under rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. Whaley acknowledged the risk he took with a “win-now” approach by giving up a No. 9 pick this year, plus a first- and fourth-round pick next year in trade with Cleveland to select Watkins.

That’s fine with Watkins, who arrived in Buffalo earlier in the day.

“Throughout my whole life I’ve had high expectations of myself,” Watkins said. “I can’t wait to get it started.”

In three seasons, Watkins set 23 school records, including career marks with 240 catches and 3,391 yards. His 27 career touchdowns matched a school record.

Dolphins’ Pouncey in hot water over hazing tweet

Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey heard from management regarding a tweet he sent that joked about hazing the team’s first-round draft pick.

The jest fell flat in the wake of the Dolphins’ 2013 bullying scandal, in which Pouncey was implicated.

The Dolphins took Tennessee tackle Ja’Wuan James with the 19th overall choice Thursday.

“Great pick! I can’t wait for our gifts he’s getting us lol,” Pouncey tweeted.

An investigation into the bullying scandal found Pouncey followed guard Richie Incognito’s lead in harassing Jonathan Martin, who left the team during the season. Pressure on Martin to give other linemen gifts was part of an alleged pattern of harassment.

On Friday, general manager Dennis Hickey said he cleared the air with Pouncey regarding the tweet.

“Mike understands that sometimes things can be taken out of context, and what’s meant as a lighthearted comment can be taken out of context,” Hickey said. “He was good with that, and understands that social media is a great tool to reach our fans for the positive, but you just have to make good choices with that. So we’re all good.”

Pouncey is only offensive line starter from last season still with the team.

James said he had no problem with Pouncey’s tweet.

“He’s probably just playing and just saying things,” James said. “It’s all part of the process being a rookie. I’m just looking forward to coming in and working.”

Congressman requests hearing on Washington’s team nickname

A member of Congress is requesting a hearing on the Washington’s nickname, calling it “another example of racial insensitivity in sports” in the wake of Donald Sterling’s lifetime ban from the NBA.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., sent a letter Friday to the chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce citing the derogatory nature of the word and suggesting the committee use its influence to persuade team owner Dan Snyder and the NFL to change the name.

Waxman appears unlikely to get the hearing before the committee, which is chaired by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and oversees professional sports.

“The committee really hasn’t been focused on the names of pro sports teams,” committee spokeswoman Charlotte Baker said Friday in an email, “and there are no plans to schedule a hearing on this issue.”

Waxman pointed that Los Angeles Clippers owner Sterling’s recent ban resulted from racist comments made in a private, then added: “In the case of the Washington football team, the offensive conduct is public, not private.”

“Unlike NBA Commissioner (Adam) Silver, the commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, has publicly defended the owner,” Waxman wrote. “In fact, he stated in a letter that ‘the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.’”

Waxman suggested the committee could call both Snyder and Goodell as witnesses to explain “how their actions are consistent with the public interest.”

Washington declined comment on Waxman’s letter. Snyder has vowed never to change the name, calling it a “badge of honor.”