He provided background and context of the Saturday morning in question. He seemed eager to address what he felt was, in his words, “blown out of proportion” by the alleged victim. He squashed the notion he had an "entourage," an important distinction, given the connotation that word carries. He even thanked the media for not overreacting to the story.
It seemed Manziel genuinely didn’t want this kind of attention and is disappointed it played out publicly, with “many untruths” to surface Monday, he said. Unless wild surveillance video surfaces or the Browns suddenly get new info about what happened, there’s nowhere else for the story to go.
This doesn’t change the reality the Browns didn’t want Manziel out at 2:30 a.m. the morning before a game, which Manziel also seems to understand.
Pat McManamon: On Friday, Johnny Manziel said a drunk, obnoxious fan accosted him in the lobby of his residence last weekend. The fan said he was trying to be a fan and Manziel’s “entourage” attacked him. Manziel said his entourage was his mother -- in town to visit -- and his roommate. Manziel was not charged, and the police didn’t seem to think he did anything wrong. This little story should now fade into whatever oblivion these stories fade. And it might fade in part because Manziel addressed what happened. He stood, spoke his piece, and took questions. He left a couple of details hanging, but folks dragged into court sometimes claim the fifth (NOT that Manziel has any reason to do so, mind you). At this point, Manziel deserves props. In so many years past a story like this would fester as Browns players hid behind statements or other jargon. Manziel talked, addressed it and gave his side. The world did not end, nor did the Rivers of Babylon overflow. Much of the sting from the incident has been defused. Props to Manziel for doing it, props to the Browns for not stonewalling. The truth, as is often said, will indeed set you free.
BEREA, Ohio -- Johnny Manziel and his roommate tried to diffuse tension "at all costs" after a fan approached him aggressively in the lobby of his condo building, resulting in a Cleveland Police report filed over an alleged fight, the rookie quarterback told the media Friday from the Browns' locker room.
Manziel, who opened his weekly media session with a nearly three-minute message, said an intoxicated fan "approached me in the lobby, putting his hands on me and kind of toying with me" as Manziel waited for the elevator to his home. Earlier in the night, Manziel had gone to dinner with his mother and his roommate, Dana Kirk, who is listed in the report.
Manziel said he wasn't disclosing all details of what happened because the incident happened so fast, but he acknowledged things escalated when he wasn't comfortable entering the same elevator with the fan, who is identified as Chris Gonos in the police report.
Gonos told police he was assaulted by the rookie quarterback and "his entourage." The incident was reported at 2:36 a.m. from the Metropolitan at The 9 hotel/condo building in Cleveland. No arrests were made and Manziel was not listed as a suspect. He was not interviewed by police.
"It was a very unfortunate situation, a situation that was tried to be averted at all costs, and one that [I] was unfortunately not able to really get away from," Manziel said. "I let [the Browns] know what really happened and wanted them to be on top of it from the very get-go. I'm very thankful for the Browns having my back in all this and at the same time supporting me on a situation that seemed to be a little blown out of proportion."
First: As if the pregame verbal sparring didn’t already deepen the intrigue for this game, the former marriage of coaching staffs should create a fascinating chess match.
Talk about familiarity. Browns defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, who was with Mike Pettine on Buffalo’s defensive staff a year ago, said the Bills have Cleveland’s gameplans from last season and their defensive playbook. The Browns have the Bills’ playbook and “all their installation,” O’Neil said.
Most NFL teams know each other. These two know each other, though O’Neil adds the Browns have changed their defensive terminology since last year.
“We were able to study some of that stuff and I’m sure they were able to study some of our stuff,” O’Neil said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about players making plays.”
Second: Ben Roethlisberger said it perfectly when asked if he’s ever seen an AFC North race quite like this, with all four teams entering the final five weeks with seven wins.
Nope, he said, because “Cleveland hasn’t been doing what it’s been doing.”
Surely he’s referring to the Browns’ six straight double-digit-loss seasons, a streak the 7-4 Browns snapped with Sunday’s win over Atlanta.
Usually, the Browns are in the cheerful holiday mood, ensuring the Steelers, Bengals and Ravens have a few extra wins to pad their playoff hopes.
Instead, they plan to make December interesting.
Third: Jordan Cameron was working with the rest of the pass-catchers in the open porton of Friday’s practice. He has been limited all week, but the Browns are hopeful they will get him back after he missed four weeks with a concussion.
If he plays, this will likely be the first time that three principles from the Browns offense -- Cameron, receiver Josh Gordon and quarterback Brian Hoyer -- have played together for a full game since Sept. 29, 2013, against Cincinnati (Hoyer got hurt early in the Buffalo game the next week).
Cameron and Gordon combined for 14 catches for 162 yards and one touchdown in a 17-6 win over the Bengals.
The Browns' biggest issue will be dealing with a physical Bills defensive front that ranks eighth in the league in run defense, giving up 98.4 yards per game. Physical fronts were the common denominator in the Browns' last two losses -- to Jacksonville and Houston.
But ... that Buffalo defense has given up at least 125 yards rushing in four of the last five games, the exception the woeful Jets.
And the difference in the Browns playing Buffalo versus playing Jacksonville and Houston is the Browns have Josh Gordon on the field. He takes a lot of defenses out of stack-the-box calls.
Gordon is the difference, as the Browns continue this unexpected season by sneaking out another road win.
My prediction: Cleveland 27, Buffalo 21.
"We talk about 'playing like a Brown,'" said special-teams coach Chris Tabor. "That epitomizes playing like a Brown right there. He's in protection, and obviously that's not what those guys do, it is cover. ... Great effort on his part. Just relentless. Never stopped playing and obviously made (what) could be a game-saving tackle right there."
Plays like that usually get a special response in the film room, and this one was no different: This one drew loud applause, and a few catcalls.
Of course it wouldn’t be an NFL team without some ribbing. Joe Thomas said he asked Bitonio what took him so long, that Thomas was waiting in the end zone for him.
Thomas also said everyone on the team noticed punter Spencer Lanning after the tackle. Lanning actually talked trash as Hester walked off the field. Yes, the punter dropped some smack on probably the greatest kick returner in NFL history.
"Of course I did," Lanning said. "Why wouldn’t I say anything to him?"
Lanning actually slowed up Hester a tiny bit, which allowed Bitonio to make the tackle. Lanning and Hester played together on the Bears.
"He and I go back," Lanning said. "He told me before the game that he thought he was going to be able to get one on me. I just sort of smiled. When I sort of slowed him down and Joel got him, basically what I said was he almost got one."
After the game Hester told Lanning had he stayed outside he would have scored. He didn’t, and Bitonio tackled him, running full out and open throttle from 20 to 20 to catch a future Hall of Famer.
"They say the NFL is an entertainment business," Tabor said. "That was an entertaining play."
"I thought I did my job," Bitonio said. "I was running down the play. The way it ended and how it was right before half, I think it was a good play."
A good play?
If the Browns make the playoffs, it might be a play that the team puts on the short list of ones that made the difference between postseason football and going home.
The true professionals understand that any play can be the one that changes a game, or turns a game from win to loss or the other way. It can happen halfway through the first quarter, or on the last play, but that is why players have to go all out on every play.
You just never know.
Thomas said there was no special recognition from the offensive line Kangaroo Court, though.
"Well," Thomas said, "we’re not allowed to give out bounties, you know. That’s actually against the rules these days."
Thomas said the Court might review the decision.
"Maybe a pat on the back," he said. "We might make him a certificate."
In the past, physical defensive fronts controlled the line of scrimmage in Browns losses to Jacksonville and Houston.
In the four players, the Browns face a defensive front that coach Mike Pettine and Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas call the best in the NFL.
"They’ve got one guy (Hughes) who’s fast, quick, slippery as a defensive end," Thomas said. “The other guy is the biggest, strongest, fastest defensive end in the NFL. Dareus is 340 and runs a 4.9, and Kyle Williams is up there with the quickest guys who ever played a three technique."
"I challenge anyone to find a better front four in the league than these guys,” quarterback Brian Hoyer said. "I think that they’re all first-round draft picks or Pro Bowlers."
Jacksonville and Houston followed a formula to stop the Browns: They sold out to stop the run, stuffed the line and took away the Browns play-action effectiveness, a vital part of the offense. The Browns have won games when they didn’t run, but the common denominator in the two losses and the Bills are the physical defensive fronts.
"They’re similar," Pettine said. "That’s why we know it’s going to be a tall task for us. We’re hopeful, and hopefully we’ve learned some from those games."
The Bills have allowed only five rushing touchdowns, tied for second in the league, and the first six games of the season Buffalo gave up 86, 80 83, 37. 69 and 50 yards.
"We’ve built a plan that we can still be effective running the football," Pettine said. "I don’t see us ever as being, 'Hey, going into a game we can’t run it. We’re going to have to throw it.' That's just not how we are built. We’re going to have to be efficient, and if efficient means gaining three and a half yards or four yards, then so be it."
Thomas said that is key, that against a defense like Buffalo’s backs have to take what is there. If it’s a yard, it’s a yard. If it’s two or four, take the two or four.
"If you’re worried or concerned going into the game, then you’ve already beat yourself ..." Thomas said. "Young running backs tend to look for the home run, and it’s not always there in the NFL. I think the thing that has hurt us when we’ve not had success running the ball have been negative runs."
The silver lining is that recently the Bills have not had the same success defending the run. Minnesota, the Jets, Kansas City, Miami and the Jets again have averaged 135.4 yards against the Bills. In four of the five games, the Bills gave up a big run of at least 24 yards; the Jets had a 17-yarder.
Isaiah Crowell had a big run for the Browns in Atlanta, a highlight-reel touchdown. Receiver Josh Gordon's return should keep the Bills honest; Buffalo has to respect Gordon’s big-play ability and can’t sell out with a safety to stop the run.
"I’d love to be the most boring, winningest offense out there," Pettine said. "We just have to find a way to still be effective in the run game."
How effective they are might determine how successful they will be in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
After the Buffalo Bills' 38-3 blowout over the Jets on Monday night, coach Doug Marrone wanted one thing more than anything else.
"The best thing that I said -- and I told this to the players, and I've been dying to say it: I just want to go home," Marrone said. "I just want to go home. It's been a long week."
After an all-hands-on-deck effort from the team -- and from the fans who were paid to shovel out seats -- the Bills (6-5) will be back home at Ralph Wilson Stadium for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns (7-4), just the Bills' second game on their home turf in a span of 41 days.
ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak and ESPN Browns reporter Pat McManamon break it all down:
Rodak: Pat, I had almost forgotten that QB Johnny Manziel is still on the Browns until last week's incident made headlines. What impact, if any, did that story have on the team, especially with coach Mike Pettine, who was the Bills' defensive coordinator last season?
McManamon: Well, the team wasn’t happy about it, and that includes Pettine. Not so much because of the incident. The team believes Manziel’s version -- that he was going to his room and an aggressive fan approached him. But the team is upset that on the day it was flying to a road game, Manziel was involved in something that required the police at 2:36 in the morning. The Browns know they can’t control what fans do, but they believe their players can avoid these kinds of things on the day they fly to a game by making smarter decisions about where they are and when. It won’t affect the team much, but it doesn’t enhance Manziel’s case that he is truly NFL-ready.
Mike, let's start with a personal note. How are you and folks you know coping with the snowfall, and what is the situation there as far as safety and the digging-out process?
Rodak: Pat, thanks for asking. I'll say this: I was astonished when I came back to the area Tuesday after three days in Detroit to see almost all the snow gone. While there was some flooding, I think most people were spared of any major problems during a much-needed weekend warm-up. That was key for area families to get back to normal and for the Bills to get their stadium ready. As Marrone said after the game, it was a long week. I had at least 5 feet of snow in my parking lot and couldn't get my car out until late Friday night, so I was able to fly to Michigan early Saturday morning. Even then, soon after the snow stopped falling, the New York State Thruway was basically clear. I haven't lived in western New York long, but it was quite an impressive effort by all the parties involved to keep people safe and get the region back to normal.
WR Josh Gordon didn't waste any time getting back to work, catching eight passes for 120 yards in his first game back from a suspension. How does he change the complexion of the Browns' offense?
McManamon: In large ways. Gordon seemed to be about 80 or 85 percent of himself, and he had the Falcons' best cornerback assigned to him the entire game, but he still came up with eight catches for 120 yards. Gordon’s impact in the passing game is obvious, but he might help more in the run game because he forces defenses to play honestly by keeping a safety back in coverage. That opens up run lanes, which allowed Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell to combine for 150 yards. Gordon is a superb talent, and as he becomes more adjusted to the game post-suspension, he will only get better.
The Browns have had serious issues with the physical defensive fronts of Houston and Jacksonville. Do the Bills present any similar issues?
Rodak: Do they ever. The Bills have the NFL's best defensive line. It's a dominant group that includes three Pro Bowlers from last season (Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus), along with a former first-round pick (Jerry Hughes) who has racked up 19.5 sacks in 27 games in Buffalo. The Browns' entire offensive line will have to be on alert; it's tough to double-team any of the Bills' front line, since you'll just free up another pass-rusher to beat a single block. The Bills, who set a franchise record in sacks last season, lead the NFL this season with 46 sacks. No other team has more than 40 sacks. It's not a matter of blitzing by this defense, either. They can do it simply with their four guys up front.
Let's cut to the chase here: Will the Browns make the playoffs?
McManamon: I’ll cut to the chase as well: It will be tough, but in this season I would not rule anything out. When NFL Nation writers outside Cleveland picked the games before the season, they expected the Browns to lose 15 of 16 games. That’s how much respect the Browns had. Manziel was the most-hyped player to come out of college in a long time, but Brian Hoyer has a steadfast lock on the quarterback job. RB Ben Tate was going to lead the run game. He’s been cut. Josh Gordon missed 10 games. TE Jordan Cameron missed games with a concussion. Three defensive linemen are out, as was the middle linebacker. Yet the Browns are 7-4, with a rookie head coach. Can they make the playoffs? They have a tough route. But as long as Hoyer stays healthy, anything can happen -- including a January game for the former Team Woeful.
Has the Sammy Watkins trade worked out for the Bills to the point that the team is not worried about lacking a first-round pick in 2015?
Rodak: I would say the trade has worked out in the sense that Watkins has shown he is everything as advertised. The wide receiver isn't putting up extraordinary numbers -- he has 48 catches (tied for 36th in the NFL) for 684 yards (23rd) -- but I'm convinced that with a better quarterback situation and better health (he has battled groin and rib injuries), he'd be higher on the charts. However, the debate about the trade continues around here, and for good reason: A bunch of rookie receivers are flashing big-time talent. The Bills gave up their 2015 first-round pick to move up just five spots for Watkins. Three selections later, Mike Evans was taken. Odell Beckham Jr. was taken at No. 12, so the Bills could've had him at their original spot, No. 9. They also could have moved further down in the first round and picked up Brandin Cooks or Kelvin Benjamin. So given the depth of the position in the draft, it's very easy to question why the Bills gave up so much to grab Watkins. The cost is steep for the Bills, who are 6-5 and would send the 14th overall pick next season to Cleveland if the season ended today.
In truth, there wouldn't be much reason for Bills fans to knock Pettine, who turned around the Bills' defense and coached the unit that set a franchise record for sacks.
"It was bittersweet for me to leave," Pettine said. "Because I just felt that we were headed the right direction and the culture that we were building, especially in the defensive room, we thought that was a special group and they've continued to prove it this year.
"I wouldn't be sitting here in this chair if it wasn't for that group."
The Browns hired Pettine as their head coach in January after one season in Buffalo. While his stay was short, Pettine credits coach Doug Marrone with helping him prepare for his latest job, exposing him to big-picture management and salary cap situations.
"There were some times during the year that some head coach-type things came up and he included me in those. Like 'Hey, if you're ever a head coach, this will help you,' or 'This decision I have to make,'" Pettine said. "He was very helpful that way and I can't express enough gratitude towards Doug for including me in those things."
Marrone, who had interviewed with the Browns a year prior, helped guide Pettine through the process.
"He was very familiar with the interview and kind of helped me with the answers to the test," Pettine recalled. "Kind of like, 'Hey, here's the process, here's who you're going to meet.' He was great and I was able to bounce a lot of things off him through the process.
"I thought He and [Bills president] Russ [Brandon] and [general manager] Doug Whaley were so supportive when the process was kind of dragging on, there were a couple times where I considered pulling my name out, just because I didn't want to put the Bills in a lurch, knowing that if I left that now they were going to have to scramble to maybe fill some jobs on the defensive side. But they were great and again, I can't be thankful enough."
Marrone had no intention of holding Pettine back from a promotion.
"I've been through it before. I've been on both sides of it," Marrone said Wednesday. "I've worked for people that have discouraged that, didn't try to help, did things like that. Then I worked with some people that wanted to do everything they can. I was raised one way, and that's just the way I raised. My parents taught me that the more that you can do to get people to where they want to be, in turn [it] will help you be where you want to be.
"I guess that's a Bronx thing. I don't know."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Running back Fred Jackson hasn't forgotten comments that Donte Whitner made about the Bills this past summer, and in return had strong words for the Cleveland Browns safety ahead of the teams' matchup Sunday in Buffalo.
Whitner, who played for the Bills from 2006 to '10, tweeted in July about the possibility of the Bills relocating:
Jackson responded to Whitner on Wednesday.
"If you talk down to anybody, you can't be respected. That's just me, that's how I feel about it," Jackson said. "For him to say stuff about that, about people that we love in this organization, he'll never get my respect for that."
Whitner didn't relent Wednesday.
"I didn't say anything really too disrespectful," he said. "Anybody else that I was talking to, they were cursing and going back and forth. Maybe you should take that up with them.
"[The Toronto Bills comment] wasn't excessive. It wasn't a joke. I knew that it would get to them. I knew it would ruffle a feather. If they're over there talking about this, maybe we are in their heads. Maybe I'm in their heads. Maybe. We don't know, but the goal is to go 1-0, the goal is to get them talking about things other than football, and I guess that's what they're doing."
The safety's social media spat with the Bills began in June, after rookie Bills receiver Sammy Watkins told the Akron Beacon Journal that he was eager to play against "all the greats," including Browns cornerback Joe Haden.
On Wednesday the Browns coach acknowledged the immense talent of Josh Gordon, but challenged him on one front.
“As good as Josh is, and he knows this, just the competitive part down the field,” Pettine said. “To be able to go up and get a ball.”
Pettine made it clear he was not talking about the interception in the back of the end zone against Atlanta. Gordon said he was pushed on the play, and Pettine said Gordon probably never saw the ball.
But there were times Gordon might have been more aggressive in attacking the ball. Pettine didn’t specify when, but on one fade pattern in the second quarter, Gordon didn’t seem to fight through the coverage, and on Brian Hoyer’s last interception, Gordon made no effort for the ball.
“Just having been with Josh through the spring and the training camp ... if you have to look for a weakness -- and there aren’t many -- but this is one,” Pettine said. “Of just that aggressive part of it. Kind of being that power forward when the ball’s up in the air and going up and attacking it.”
Pettine also admitted that Hoyer might have forced some throws to Gordon in the excitement about having the Pro Bowl wide receiver on the field.
The coach even said he expected that to happen.
“I think that will settle over time,” Petine said. “We had a feeling that there would be some of that. We just felt that the positive would outweigh it, and as it turned out, it did.”
Pettine’s remarks on Gordon and 50-50 plays should not be taken as excessive criticism. He was simply discussing a way Gordon can improve, something he’s already discussed with Gordon.
The coach made no secret what he thinks of having Gordon back.
“We don’t want to force [the ball to Gordon], but we also know that his guy is a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver,” Pettine said. “He’s a heck of a weapon. We think he helps the run game from the standpoint of, how do you take away an elite receiver and take away the run at the same time? That is a dilemma, and I know it firsthand from being in this league as long as I have.
“He’s a playmaker. He’s a guy who’s shown that even something as simple as a pass from two yards behind the line of scrimmage, that he can navigate his way on a wide receiver screen for 15 or 20 yards.”
Flipping that perceived mess into an attractive 7-4 record and creating a tangible late-season buzz in Cleveland gives Pettine an authentic case for Coach of the Year candidacy.
Let's be clear: This award belongs to the Arizona Cardinals' Bruce Arians if the season ended today. But if for some reason the 9-2 Cardinals flounder, Pettine should be on the short list. Philly's Chip Kelly deserves some run here. His Eagles are 8-3, but the roster doesn't scream 8-3. He's won with Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez. And the Jason Garrett let's-not-go-8-8 tour is still rolling in Dallas. Among the 10 NFL teams clustered at seven wins, one entered the season without reasonable playoff expectations nationally.
The Browns defense has lost three key defensive linemen, the league's leader in interceptions (safety Tashaun Gipson) and its most versatile linebacker (Karlos Dansby) to injury. Still winning. The offense lost Alex Mack for the season and has been without Jordan Cameron for a month. Still winning.
Pettine has made clear the NFL is a weekly audition. “I could go from Coach of the Year candidate to village idiot in a span of three hours,” he said in October.
But if Browns sniff 10 wins for the first time since 2007, he'll be more former than latter.
BEREA, Ohio -- Josh Gordon felt some in the Cleveland Browns organization kept him at arm's length during his 10-game suspension, the wide receiver told NFL Network in an interview that will air Sunday morning.
"The lowest point of all this I think was the disassociation from a lot of friends you thought were close or you thought you were kind of cool with really not checking on you anymore, [not] hitting you up anymore, [not] wanting to hang out," Gordon told former teammate Nate Burleson, who spent training camp with the Browns. "As far as even people in here [with the Browns]. I don't want to throw names around, but I can see it. I'm definitely really observant, so I see how people might just be more standoffish as they were before."
Gordon was suspended 10 games for failing a drug test. His suspension originally was for the entire season but was reduced after the league and players' union agreed to new policies.
He spent much of the preseason with the team, and once his suspension was reduced he was permitted to work out on his own at the team facility but not practice or work out with the team. During that time he was around his teammates.
"It's kind of like a disease," said Gordon, who did not talk to the media on Wednesday. "People, they want to see it but they don't really want to touch it."
Coach Mike Pettine did not dismiss Gordon's feelings, but he did say anything that may have happened was not malicious and is similar to what injured players experience.