Johnny Manziel expected to make CFL debut Friday; coach happy with his progress

On Friday, Johnny Football will likely play professional football again for the first time since 2015.

Manziel's new coach, June Jones, told reporters on Monday that he expects Manziel to make his CFL debut for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats against the Toronto Argonauts on Friday in a preseason game. Manziel will take reps behind the starter, Jeremiah Masoli, and it sounds like the game plan will be tailored to what Manziel is comfortable with at this point in his very young career with the Tiger-Cats.

"I don't want to put him in the game and have him not know what exactly where everyone is going to be," Jones said, per TSN. "That comes from repetitions. So, he's not all the way caught up where Jeremiah is. So, I'm going to have him do things that he knows and does, and I'll get a list from him of the things he feels comfortable with and those will be the things he does."

Manziel signed with the Tiger-Cats less than two weeks ago, so expectations should be lowered for the former Heisman Trophy winner who flamed out of the NFL after two dreadful seasons with the Browns. Manziel hasn't played professional football in two full years and he's joining a league that operates under different rules. There'll be an adjustment period.

When Jones was asked about Manziel's progression to this point, he expressed optimism. 

"I feel pretty good (about his progression)," Jones said. "He's starting to ask the right questions. He's seeing the right things. He's getting a lot of reps both out here and in the virtual reality part of it. So, he's staying plugged in. He's going to be OK."

It'll be a long path back to the NFL for Manziel, but Friday will be a significant check point. Manziel, of course, isn't just out of the NFL because of his uninspiring performances on the field. He couldn't find a job in the NFL due to what happened away from the field. In addition to his excessive partying habits that contributed to his career's demise, he was also accused of assaulting his then-girlfriend, Colleen Crowley, in 2016. Eventually, Manziel reached a plea deal and the charges were dismissed. 

Manziel began his comeback effort earlier this year. He revealed that he's been treated for bipolar disorder and has gotten sober. He threw in front of 13 NFL teams at the University of San Diego's Pro Day and participated in the Spring League. He even offered to play in the NFL for free.

Nobody took him up on his offer -- and with good reason. Before Manziel can be trusted to play in the NFL again, he'll need to demonstrate that he's capable of (1) playing competent football, and (2) showing up on time, being a good teammate, putting in the work in between game days, and so on. That's the opportunity the CFL offers Manziel.

For Manziel, the process has already begun, as his coach alluded to above. Friday is just the first chance for observers to see for themselves. 

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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