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Johnny Manziel struggling to adapt to CFL, not guaranteed starting job

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Johnny Manziel officially took the field for his first professional football training camp in three years on Sunday, but he didn't see much action.

Manziel, who signed a two-year deal with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League on Saturday, worked out with five other quarterbacks at the team's training camp facility, and only threw a few short tosses to receivers. He spent the majority of his time on the sidelines as an observer, and getting a crash course from the coaching staff on the different style of play in Canada.

“It felt better being out here than it did when I was laying in bed last night, going over the playbook,” Manziel told CFL.ca on Sunday. “When we went to the meetings (on Saturday), I felt super overwhelmed and I started to get a little too hard on myself because (the offense) is different. The routes are different…the footwork, the certain windows that you hit and how quick they happen. That was different. I was feeling a little overwhelmed."

Johnny Manziel

The former Heisman Trophy winner and Cleveland Browns quarterback will have to quickly learn a number of rule changes and differences in field dimensions in comparison to the NFL. Some of the major changes include:

  • The length of the entire field in the NFL is 120 yards in comparison with the CFL which is 150 yards. The width of the field between the two leagues also differs. In the NFL, the width of the field from sideline to sideline is 160 feet or 53 and 1/3 yards. The CFL's width is 65 yards.
  • The total number of players on the field in the NFL is 22. In the CFL, the total is 24.
  • In the NFL, the offense has four downs to make a first down, score a touchdown or kick a field goal. In the CFL, the offense has three downs to make a first down, score a touchdown or kick a field goal.

Many analysts believe Manziel's scrambling ability will allow him to thrive in the CFL due to the larger playing surface. However, Tiger-Cats head coach June Jones isn't ready to hand over the starting duties to him right out of training camp.

"Let me tell you something right now, he's got his work ahead of him to beat out Jeremiah [Masoli]," Tiger-Cats head coach June Jones told the National Post.

Masoli was a two-year starter at the University of Oregon,but was kicked off the team after several off-field incidents. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent, but was cut and eventually found his way to the CFL, where he's been with the Tiger-Cats since February 2013. Masoli's troubled past is eerily similar to Manziel's personal struggles away from football.

It's very unlikely Manziel begins the season as Hamilton's starting quarterback with preseason action set to get underway in less than two weeks. The Tiger-Cats open their regular season on June 16 in Calgary.

Jones anticipates it will take at least a few weeks for Manziel to study up on Canadian football and get comfortable with the playbook. However, it wouldn't be surprising to see Manziel get at least a few snaps in a preseason contest.

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