Johnny Manziel will take a major step in his attempt at career revitalization Friday night, when he will start for the Montreal Alouettes at home against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
It will be his first appearance in a professional football game since December, 2015, when he took his final snaps for the Cleveland Browns before the NFL franchise cut him months later after numerous off-field incidents.
The Alouettes acquired Manziel from the Tiger-Cats in a trade on July 22. Hamilton had signed the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner to a two-year contract in May but traded him after incumbent quarterback Jeremiah Masoli got off to a strong start to the CFL season. It quickly became apparent that Montreal coach Mike Sherman intended to get Manziel onto the field as quickly as possible, with his team struggling to a 1-5 start.
"We didn't trade for Johnny to have him sit on the bench. Obviously he's come here to get reps; to become the best player he can become. We started that process today," Sherman said Monday, per the Gazette. "You've all probably figured it out yourselves. At the same time, when you have two players [fairly equal], you probably wait until game time to make that announcement. It doesn't make sense to do it any sooner."
Montreal has burned through four quarterbacks already this season, with Drew Willy, Matt Shiltz and Jeff Mathews all getting injured - the Alouettes' offensive line has allowed 23 sacks through six games - and Vernon Adams Jr. mostly ineffective in Thursday night's 44-23 home loss to the Edmonton Eskimos. During the game, fans chanted "Johnny! Johnny! Johnny!" and "We want Johnny!" Some of them already had purchased Manziel jerseys.
On Monday, the day Manziel began taking first-team snaps in practice, Adams expressed his extreme displeasure with that reaction.
"Yes, it hurt me to hear that. I have nothing more to say or to give to the supporters of Montreal. Never again," Adams told La Presse, per TSN's translation. "Their behavior was very disrespectful. It was not like I was playing badly. I do not want them to ask me for anything, not even a small piece of equipment.
"I do not care what the situation is. It was a lack of respect and it affected me," Adams continued. "I tried anyways to make plays on the field. But that's fine. In the future, I'll treat the fans as they treated me. That's all."
Adams' frustration may stem from the fact that Manziel is about to cost him his second CFL job. The Tiger-Cats released him in June, ostensibly because they had signed Manziel to a two-year contract. Adams then signed with the Alouettes as a free agent, only to watch the team trade for Manziel. But before Thursday night's game, he seemed to accept the fact that he would soon become the team's backup, offering up much more measured comments than the "never again" diatribe he delivered after the loss.
"Everybody knows Johnny didn't come here to sit. They didn't pay him just to sit. I understand he's coming here to play," Adams said. "As of right now, the Alouettes are [1-5]. I'm worried about winning a game. I'm not worried about what Johnny's doing.
"Coach gave me the start. I'm going to come out here, do my best, lead this team, be efficient on second down and just have fun. When I have fun, I play my best."
Manziel was not made available to reporters Tuesday.