Johnny Manziel’s road to CFL stardom won’t be easy

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The wider field won’t impede Johnny Manziel in the Canadian Football League. Neither will the 20-second play clock, the 12-man defensive looks, the punts on third down nor the pre-snap motion. It’s all of it, all at once, all while Manziel is in a hurry to master this league so he can move on to the next.

Most American quarterbacks need a year or more to adjust and thrive in the CFL. But if Manziel is to return to the NFL when his two-year contract expires, he must speed up the traditional timetable and put extended periods of high-end play on tape right away. That process will continue Saturday in what is expected to be his second preseason appearance, in Montreal against the Alouettes, scheduled for a noon ET kickoff on ESPN+.

“Some guys come up here and they can have success right away,” said Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly, the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2017. “But it takes some time to really understand what’s happening. It’s hard. It’s hard to be successful here right out of the gates. That’s definitely going to be a challenge.”

To be fair, most quarterbacks who migrate north don’t have Manziel’s athletic skills and pedigree. Reilly, for example, went undrafted in 2009 out of Central Washington. He was released by four NFL teams over 18 months before moving to the CFL, and only after spending two seasons on the bench did he get a chance to start in 2013.

Current Tiger-Cats starter Jeremiah Masoli spent three seasons on the bench after signing in 2013 out of Mississippi. Hamilton coach June Jones has said he is committed to Masoli as the starter, but some of Jones’ other public comments — such as when he said last winter that Manziel would be the “best player to ever play up here” — suggest he is eager to get Manziel on the field.8

“I think Johnny will come fast because we’re not going to change things from here on,” Jones said last week. “He has the whole offense in, and he’s been running it on the field. Now, does he know what he’s doing with it yet? No. But because we’re repping it all with him now, he’s going to come faster than what is typical.”

Manziel has acknowledged the steep learning curve but told reporters before his first preseason game that he has “a pretty good grasp on almost everything that we’re doing.” He said he has played Jones’ run-and-shoot scheme “a million” times on EA Sports’ “NCAA Football,” and Jones said his approach in many ways mirrors the three- and four-receiver sets Manziel utilized at Texas A& nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“I looked at every pass he threw in the NFL out of a four-wide, a three-wide, out of an empty set,” Jones said, “and he threw the ball just like he did in college out of those. What the NFL did to him is put him in something he had never been in before. Never in high school, never in college, he had never run what he was asked to do. But when he was asked to do the things he had done, which is what he’ll be asked to do here, he looked like an All-Pro.”