The message had been sent before, but on Wednesday, Cleveland Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson made sure it was received loud and clear at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Just in case anyone in the Western Hemisphere still wasn’t sure.
The new coach has been on the job for less than two months, time enough to become more than a little annoyed with the question he knew was coming. It was inevitable, but the coach was prepared.
What about Johnny Manziel?
Jackson was clearly ready to give a definitive answer and leave no doubt where he and the Browns’ organization stand on their troubled quarterback, and more to the point, the issue of domestic violence and abuse. The man charged with putting the pieces together in Cleveland met the query head on.
“We made a statement two weeks ago about Johnny Manziel,” said Jackson. “And I’m going to stand by that. His future on our team will be addressed pretty soon but let me say this. I think it’s really important. There were other people involved in the situation that happened [in Dallas] and I feel very bad about those things. I want to make sure we all understand that behavior will not be tolerated as we move forward. Our organization’s going to take a stand and we’re going to move on from those kind of situations as we move forward.”
After that declarative statement, Jackson shouldn’t have to answer any more questions about Johnny -- though he probably will -- or what he expects from the players who suit up for the Browns.
Jackson reinforced his position telling the 1,200 media members gathered at the combine that he wants tough players who are also men of high character. The message could not have been more clear.
Come March 9, Manziel will be on the outside looking in, dropped from the Browns roster while facing possible criminal charges in Texas. His future football prospects appear dim at best.
And while there may be empathy for a young man apparently battling a slew of demons, a beleaguered franchise is more than ready to move on and put this sad chapter of the team’s history in the past.
Just as significant, though, is the stance the Browns and their new coach have taken. They’ve drawn a line in the sand when it comes to “that behavior.”
With Manziel that could mean a multitude of things. But in this case, Jackson was addressing domestic abuse and going on record as to where he and the organization stand on this issue, which is commendable and should be applauded.
But judging from the NFL’s lengthy rap sheet over the past 10 to 15 years, there’s a good chance the Browns will be put to the test some day by another player who crosses the line.
Jackson has raised the bar. He and the organization may very well have to live up to that high standard set in Indianapolis.
Only then will we know if those words were more than just words and whether the Browns have passed the test.
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