USA TODAY US Edition
Manziel needs to focus on life, not career
That Johnny Manziel has thrown his NFL career away isn’t the greatest tragedy.
It’s that his life might very well be next.
Hours before the NFL announced that it was suspending Manziel for four games for substance abuse, ESPN reported the quarterback has told friends he’s determined to clean up his life. So much so, he’s set a July 1 deadline for his sobriety. If only it worked that way. Deadlines or resolutions are motivational tactics to get yourself back to the gym or finally lose those last 5 pounds. They are useless against an addiction so powerful in its destructiveness that everything else pales in importance to getting that next fix. Hopes, dreams, plans, potential — all of those are negotiable for someone in the clutches of alcohol or drugs.
It doesn’t matter how old or famous you are. When an addic-
tion is so consuming it’s sucking the very life out of someone, he’ll either get help or he’ll die. There are no in-betweens — and there certainly is no trip to Cabo for one last bender before you get serious about getting sober. Yet that’s where Manziel is. Someone who recognizes he has a problem also realizes he can’t turn it on and off. And someone who recognizes he has a problem also realizes he needs to focus all of his energies on the day that’s in front of him, not think ahead to when he might return to the NFL.
“Ultimately you want that per- son to take ownership of whatever it is they’re dealing with. That’s where you’re going to see the best results,” said Dwight Hollier, the NFL’s vice president of wellness and clinical services. “Someone who, for instance, is dealing with a substance abuse issue is going to have a hard time taking that ownership because of that dependence. Hopefully there’s someone who can have an influence on that person to get them to the right resources.”
Manziel is fortunate in that there is no shortage of people worrying about him and wanting to help. His father, Paul, has said he fears for his son’s life and forcibly checked him into rehab this year. The Cleveland Browns tried tough love, first within their building and then by cutting him.
And the NFL continues to try to reach him, with executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent saying this week that the league would support him whenever he’s ready. Without addressing Manziel specifically, Hollier said the league can offer substance abuse resources and free counseling.
But it has to start with Manziel. No one can force him to get help, and a self-imposed deadline for sobriety is just a line in the sand waiting to be erased.
“It’s what you go to bed every night thinking, how do you assist someone that’s really not interested or quite frankly doesn’t want to meet you halfway,” Vincent said in an interview Tuesday on 610 Sports in Philadelphia.
“You can have all the resources, and they’re endless. ... They’re there. They’re available,” Vincent said. “But if an individual is not willing to meet you halfway to get assistance, it’s very difficult, because it’s something you can’t make an individual do anything.”
Those who truly care about Manziel — not the leeches looking to party with Johnny Football — are not concerned about his future in the NFL. Good thing, because he no longer has one.
Even if a team was willing to overlook his marginal performances on the field and his insubordination and volatility off it, no one is going to sign a backup knowing he might miss most of the season. The four-game ban could be followed by a six-game suspension for an altercation this year with his ex-girlfriend.
But there is more to life than football. There is life, period. And if Manziel doesn’t realize soon that he is out of control and needs help, he’s going to lose that, too.