Bears aren’t moved much by Johnny Manziel circus
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter August 26, 2014 9:32PM
Updated: August 27, 2014 5:17PM
Bears linebacker Jon Bostic faced Johnny Manziel before his ‘‘Johnny Football’’ persona — all of the noteworthy plays on the field and the notoriety off it — grabbed the nation’s attention and never let go.
Hurricane Isaac had postponed Manziel’s Texas A&M debut in 2012, making Bostic’s Florida team his first college opponent instead of Louisiana Tech. And Manziel was a mystery.
‘‘Nobody knew who Johnny Manziel was,’’ Bostic said. ‘‘I’m sitting there watching his high school highlight tape the night before the game.
‘‘[Florida] coach [Will] Muschamp said, ‘Listen, I recruited this kid to play safety at Texas.’ . . . We didn’t know what they were going to do.’’
Manziel turned in the least productive performance of his Heisman Trophy-winning season — 173 yards passing, 60 yards rushing and a touchdown run — in that 20-17 loss to Florida on Sept. 8, 2012.
Since then, the hype around Manziel has only grown, and the Bears will experience it firsthand Thursday in Cleveland against the Browns, who drafted Manziel 22nd overall in June.
Manziel is expected to finish the first half and play into the second after starter Brian Hoyer opens the game. With former Bears quarterback Rex Grossman also expected to play, there’s undeniably more intrigue surrounding the Bears’ final preseason game than usual.
‘‘You’ve got to let the kid be him,’’ Bostic said of Manziel. ‘‘He’s growing up just like the rest of the people in the NFL coming in. A lot of people can’t wait to see him play.’’
The Bears, with quarterback Jay Cutler, didn’t need to examine Manziel closely before the 2014 draft. Coach Marc Trestman said Tuesday that he didn’t grade Manziel coming out and doesn’t have an opinion about him.
Manziel is a subject that Trestman, a renowned quarterback whisperer, seemingly doesn’t want to touch. Then again, he’s not one to pour gasoline on a fire.
‘‘I’ve caught glimpses of his athleticism,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘He won a lot of games in college against some really good talent, but to specifically talk about him, I haven’t really spent a lot of time watching him play and I haven’t watched him play in the preseason.’’
But what about all the attention he receives?
‘‘I don’t pay much attention to the attention, with what goes on outside,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘I pay attention to what goes on on the field when it’s appropriate, so I don’t have an opinion, so to speak, on why there’s so much attention and what’s going on out there, which would take the focus off the team, which is the most important thing.’’
Manziel’s life, on full display on TMZ and Deadspin, represents a level of attention the Bears wouldn’t want to deal with on a daily basis.
Cutler, whose own life has gone viral online for unwanted reasons, can sympathize.
‘‘It’s hard for him to be in that situation,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘I know some of those coaches over there, and I’m sure they’re trying to instruct him as best they can. I wouldn’t want to be in that situation.’’
The Bears’ reserves will handle Manziel on Thursday. Bostic said Florida was able to slow him by switching to press man coverage and challenging all his options.
‘‘He’s definitely a dynamic player,’’ Bostic said. ‘‘He’s more quick than fast. His quickness to get around a corner or edge is second to none. You’ve got to keep him in the pocket. That’s the main thing.’’