SAN ANTONIO — Troubled quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was kicked out of the Canadian Football League late last month after being released by the Montreal Alouettes for violating the terms of his contract, has yet to be cleared to play in the Alliance of American Football.
Although the Commanders would own Manziel’s signing rights if the AAF gives him the green light – and if Manziel wants to play in the fledgling spring league – it’s no given that he would end up in San Antonio. The Commanders would have first dibs on signing Manziel because he played at Texas A&M, one of the schools allocated to San Antonio by the AAF.
“Nothing new yet, which is surprising,” Johnston told reporters after the Commanders’ workout Thursday. “We talked last week and I really felt we’d have something by the end of the week last week, or early this week. I’m actually surprised.”
Is Manziel still being vetted by the AAF?
“I’m not sure,” Johnston said. “I don’t want to speculate on anything right now. They’re doing their due diligence. They’ve done that consistently throughout the process since we started this journey. I would just think (they’re) continuing to gather information and make sure the decision they make is the right one.”
If the Commanders pass on Manziel, he would go through the AAF’s waiver process and be eligible to sign with another team.
Without mentioning Manziel’s name, Johnston gave the strong impression the Commanders would be reluctant to mess with the team’s chemistry this late in the season by adding such a high-profile player.
“Additions this late in the year, if you look around at what other teams are doing in the league in personnel reports every week, there’s not a whole of people adding people at this stage,” Johnston said. “There are some good football players that have come across this list, and haven’t been picked up. I think everybody feels very comfortable with where they are right now.
“We spent a long time developing the chemistry and the culture of this organization since we started the season, since we came to training camp. These guys have done a fantastic job (with) what they’ve created. Very impressed by it. It’s some of the best I’ve seen, and I’ve been on very, very good football teams.”
The Commanders are 3-2 midway through the season, winning two straight on the road after back-to-back losses. Quarterback Logan Woodside was named the AAF’s offensive player of the week this week after completing 21 of 27 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns in San Antonio’s 29-25 win over the Arizona Hotshots. Woodside set a torrid pace in the first half, hitting 12 of his first 13 attempts for 192 yards and the two TDs.
A Kerrville Tivy High School graduate, Manziel went on to win the Heisman Trophy at Texas A&M in 2012. He left A&M after his sophomore season to enter the 2014 NFL draft. The Cleveland Browns selected Manziel with the 22nd pick of the first round. Released by the Browns after only two seasons, Manziel took his game to Canada, where he started the 2018 season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2018 before being traded to the Alouettes during the season.
As speculation continues on where Manziel will land next, the Commanders are focused on making a push for the playoffs with the players they have on their roster now.
“I think everybody around the Alliance is just kind of weighing and waiting,” Johnston said. “And what does that do? What disruption does that cause your team? You’re going to have distractions. You’re going to have adversity during the course of the season.
“The one thing you don’t want to have is self-inflicted situations like that. Once the league does their due diligence, then all of us as franchises around the country have to do our due diligence.”
The Commanders open the second half of their season against the Legends in Atlanta on Sunday. The game will be the fourth in a row on the road for San Antonio, which hosts the Salt Lake Stallions March 23 at the Alamodome.