Hamilton Ticats worked out Johnny Manziel last week, aren’t close to signing him

Johnny Manziel has been on the Hamilton Ticats' negotiation list for almost five years.
Johnny Manziel has been on the Hamilton Ticats’ negotiation list for almost five years.  (Scott Eklund / The Associated Press file photo)  

HAMILTON—The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have worked out Johnny Manziel but aren’t close to signing the former Heisman Trophy winner.

Kent Austin, Hamilton’s vice-president of football operations, confirmed Wednesday the CFL club put Manziel through his paces last week in Buffalo, N.Y. But Austin said Manziel is nowhere near signing with the struggling Ticats.

“Johnny did some good things . . . on the field, he looked fine,” Austin said. “He’s obviously a talented kid.

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Austin said Manziel has been on Hamilton’s negotiation list — which gives the club exclusive CFL negotiating rights to the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner — for almost five years.

Players can be added, removed or traded from a club’s negotiation list at any time. Austin added the former Texas A&M star was among 10 players the Ticats worked out.

“Don’t read too much into a workout,” Austin said. “We’re doing our job to find the best football players we can find at every position.

“All evaluations are done according to what we’re doing to structure the football team to make us the most competitive product on the field. Those evaluations are always ongoing, the neg. list is always fluid. Things change quite a bit.”

Hamilton (0-8) is the CFL’s only winless team heading into its home game Monday night against Toronto (4-6). Backup Jeremiah Masoli will start against the Argonauts ahead of incumbent Zach Collaros.

Manziel, nicknamed Johnny Football during his time at Texas A&M, became the first freshman to capture the Heisman Trophy, given annually to U.S. college football’s top player. He thwarted opposing defences with his scrambling ability and penchant for orchestrating wild fourth-quarter victories.

The Cleveland Browns selected Manziel in the first round, No. 22 overall, in the 2014 NFL draft. He spent two seasons with the club, posting a 2-6 record as a starter before being released March 11, 2016.

But the 24-year-old Manziel has made headlines for all the wrong reasons off the football field.

He was dogged by reports of alcohol and drug use and spent 73 days at a treatment centre for an unspecified addiction. His father, Paul, publicly stated he was worried about his son’s future following a series of off-field incidents.

In 2016, Manziel was indicted on a misdemeanour assault charge. He was also dropped by two agents.

News of Manziel’s workout with Hamilton comes two days after the franchise rescinded its controversial hiring of former Baylor head coach Art Briles. Less than 12 hours appointing Briles as its assistant head coach offence, the Ticats reversed the decision following a firestorm of criticism over the move.

So that begs the question: How would Ticats fans react to the addition of a high-profile player with character questions?

“We have a responsibility to evaluate every single player that’s on our neg. list,” Austin said. “That is being done with all of our players and those factors (character) are all considered.

“Don’t read too much into a workout to say that somehow we’re bypassing the evaluation in that particular area. We’re not. “

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