Manziel's CFL debut brings flashes of 'Johnny Football'

Johnny Manziel showed flashes of the vintage playmaking ability that helped him earn the Heisman Trophy and catch the attention of NFL evaluators on Friday night in his preseason debut in the CFL.

Manziel, a flameout as a first-round pick with the Cleveland Browns because of admitted drug and alcohol abuse, played 22 snaps in five possessions of a 36-18 loss just two weeks after signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

He completed 9 of his 12 pass attempts, including a 21-yarder to Damarr Aultman on a bootleg to his right. He was also sacked twice resulting in a change of possession, and said he had to hear a good amount of trash talk.

"It was just part of it," Manziel said after the game. "I was trying to help a guy up out of the pile. He wants to say some foul stuff. Listen, I'm not here to be pushed over. You can come at me because my name is in the paper or because my name is on TV. You can come at me. I'm not backing down. I'm here for a reason. I'm here to play ball and I'm not going to be treated like (expletive). So, it is what it is. It's football. People talk a little bit out there. But just know that I'm not backing down from anybody."

Hamilton head coach June Jones said the offense used with Manziel under center was a remedial version of his overall scheme, the one employed with starter Jeremiah Masoli under center. Jones said two days before the game that Manziel would be one of the team's backup quarterbacks, along with former Oregon starter Vernon Adams.

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LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 05: NFL player Johnny Manziel in attendance during the UFC 196 event inside MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 5, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
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27 December 2015: Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) throws a pass during the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. The Chiefs defeated the Browns 17-13. (Photo by James Allison/Icon Sportswire) (Photo by James Allison/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
PALM SPRINGS, CA - APRIL 17: Johnny Manziel attends REVOLVE Desert House on April 17, 2016 at on April 17, 2016 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Thaddaeus McAdams/FilmMagic)
Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel is shown in this combination police booking photos in Dallas County, Texas, United States on May 4, 2016. Courtesy Highland Park Texas Department of Public Safety/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Former Texas A&M and Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel makes a court appearance at the Frank Crowley Courts Building on May 5, 2016 in Dallas. Manziel reported to court Thursday for the first time since a Dallas County grand jury indicted him last month on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. Former girlfriend Colleen Crowley has accused him of kidnapping, hitting and threatening to kill her in January. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images
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LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 24: (L-R) Diana Tran, Nick Tershay and Johnny Manziel attend PUMA X Diamond Supply Launch Event on January 24, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for PUMA)
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LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Johnny Manziel attends ChaCha The Wave And Jamie Foxx Foundation's 1st Annual Charity Celebrity Basketball Game at Private Residence on February 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tara Ziemba/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09: Johnny Manziel is seen on March 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09: Johnny Manziel is seen on March 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images)
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It's unlikely given the preseason atmosphere Jones is ready to change his depth chart, especially considering his comments prior to the game.

"Until something creates for me to take him out of there, I would say he'll be our starter for the whole year, hopefully, and win the Grey Cup," Jones said of Masoli.

Masoli was intercepted twice and went 8 of 13 for 115 yards against Toronto on Friday.

Manziel said he's always out to exceed expectations.

"It was good to get out there, feel the speed, see the zone coverages," Manziel said of what he described as an easy transition to a new country.

"I'm here for a reason. I'm here to compete for a reason. I want to play and do whatever capacity to help this team win."

Last season for Hamilton, Masoli completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,177 yards, 15 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 12 games. He also ran for 446 yards and four touchdowns.

Hamilton re-signed Masoli to a two-year contract through 2019 in January.

--Field Level Media

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