Johnny Manziel’s professional football career is at a crossroads. The former Heisman Trophy winner and the Browns‘ 2014 first-round pick hasn’t taken an NFL snap since December 2015, and he’s been out of the league altogether since March 2016. On Saturday, Manziel took the field again, this time in the Spring League, which consists of four teams who play two games over a five-day period.

The results were mixed.

Manziel had flashed glimpses of the form that made him one of the most exciting players in college football.

But he also was sacked three times and finished 9 of 15 for 82 yards with this one-yard touchdown throw:

The good news, of course, is that Manziel is playing football again. The bad news, at least to hear him tell it, is that he has a long way to go.

“It’s disappointing, some of the things that happened,” Manziel said after the game, according to ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert. “But nevertheless, it’s a huge step for me. I put pads back on. A lot of people wrote me off just to even get to this point. I’m definitely emotional about it. I’m definitely happy about it. This isn’t the end goal for me, but I’m having fun again. I have a smile on my face.”

Manziel has one more game in the Spring League.

“The message that I’m sending is showing up every day and going to meetings,” he continued. “Being engaged in everything that is going on during practice and in the game. I can’t control what is going on [with NFL teams‘ interest] and I don’t know what’s going on in NFL meetings. If that’s the case, if the NFL is something that pops up, cool. If not, I’m going to work until I get back there. We’ll see how things play out.”

At least 13 NFL teams watched Manziel take part in pro days last month at the University of San Diego and Texas A&M. And if he doesn’t find his way onto a roster, Manziel has said that he’ll likely head to the CFL, where the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have a two-year contract on the table.

The issue has never been with Manziel’s on-field ability but his struggles to avoid trouble off the field. He now says those days are behind him. In a conversation with SI.com’s Bruce Feldman last month Manziel conceded that he has to prove that he’s changed.

“When I first got in the league, did I have some leeway? Sure I did, but I have exhausted all leeway and all second chances,” Manziel said. “This isn’t the second chance. This is the 35th chance. This is the last of the last chances to show people that I’ve made a drastic change in my life, and it’s for the better and I’m happy with where I’m at. … [But] until I get into [an NFL] building and I’m able to show that, it’s all just talk. It’s all just me saying that I’m different. Now, I know I am.”

If Manziel stays on the straight and narrow — and shows he can still play — he’ll get his chance. It may not come this week, or even this year, but it’s reasonable to think his NFL dream is still alive for one simple reason: quarterbacks are hard to find.


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