|Johnny Football's first pitch rained out|
|Wednesday, June 04, 2014 8:00 PM|
CLEVELAND — Johnny Manziel spent a day away from football hanging out with little kids and major-leaguers.
And after waiting through the rain, the rookie quarterback's first pitch got sacked.
Manziel and Cleveland's other first-year players attended two events Wednesday. The first was at a Berea elementary school, where they kicked off a community-service program inside a packed gymnasium that filled with high-pitched screams the moment Manziel entered. He slapped as many hands as he could before taking a seat with his teammates.
After being handed the microphone, Manziel introduced himself to the crowd.
"I'm Johnny Manziel and I'm from Texas," he told the kids.
As if everyone didn't know.
Later, while meeting some players inside Cleveland's clubhouse before the Indians hosted the Red Sox, there was one youngster who wasn't sure if he was looking at the man nicknamed Johnny Football.
Manziel had just met center fielder Michael Bourn, when Bourn's 4-year-old son, Bryson, asked his dad a question.
"Is that him?" he asked, pointing at Manziel, who laughed.
Manziel was scheduled to throw out one of two ceremonial first pitches — along with fellow first-round pick Justin Gilbert. But after a nearly 2-hour delay, Manziel's moment on the mound was canceled.
Indians manager Terry Francona had been looking forward to seeing the former Heisman Trophy winner's arm.
"I hope he scrambles," Francona said.
Instead, Manziel was introduced along with his teammates as the grounds crew began preparing the field for a 9:30 start. Manziel waved to the rain-soaked fans and treated them to his trademark, finger-rubbing "money" gesture. As he left the field, fans chanted, "Here we go Brownies, here we go."
Earlier in the day, Manziel posted a photograph on Twitter of him as a kid wearing an Indians uniform.
"The Indians were always our team growing up and when I moved to Kerrville in middle school that was our team again," he said.
Inside Grindstone Elementary School, the 21-year-old Manziel was in his element among more than 800 school kids.
He happily signed autographs and posed for photographs as the children, their teachers and parents clamored to be near the young star. He's grown accustomed to life as a celebrity, so Manziel wasn't surprised when his appearance triggered a raucous reaction from the kids on the second-to-last-day of school before summer vacation.
"I don't think much catches me off guard anymore," he said of the reception. "It was warm and very welcome and I'm very grateful they gave me an ovation."
Gilbert also spoke to the crowd, drawing laughs when he said Manziel was a tough act to follow.
It's been that way since the draft for Gilbert, who was selected with the No. 8 overall pick — 14 before Manziel — but has taken a back seat to his well-known teammate.
"It's a tough job," Gilbert said of following Manziel. "I'm getting used to it, though."
Manziel's arrival in Cleveland has triggered a run on Browns' tickets and No. 2 jerseys. Although he's still a backup behind Brian Hoyer, Manziel is the unquestioned toast of this football town.
It's been a meteoric rise to stardom for Manziel, who knew his appearance would be one the grade-schoolers would not forget.
"It's a great experience for them," he said. "I remember being a kid like this and the people I looked up to at the time — Derek Jeter or Brett Favre or Michael Vick or whoever it was that I loved watching play — and for these guys who are here are big Browns fans. We all know how much this community loves the Browns and what they do for us and the passion they have for us."
There were no shrill screams when Manziel arrived for the Indians game. After spending a few minutes in the clubhouse, Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin, a fellow Texan, escorted him to the indoor batting cages where Manziel got in a few warm-up tosses to get ready for a first pitch he never got to make.
Manziel wasn't worried about throwing a strike, noting it was the third time he had been invited to do the honor.
"I should have it figured out by now," he added.
But he couldn't stop the rain.
Browns WR Gordon pleads not guilty to speeding
BEREA — Browns Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon has pleaded not guilty to a speeding ticket.
Gordon, who is awaiting a possible NFL suspension for failing a drug test, did not appear as scheduled in Berea Municipal Court on Wednesday. According to the court's website, his attorney entered a not guilty plea Tuesday. There is no new court date.
Gordon was stopped for going 74 mph in a 60 mph zone on May 25. He was fined $187. His passenger was cited for possession of less than 200 grams of marijuana.
Gordon could be facing a one-season suspension for another failed drug test. He was suspended two games last season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He led the league in yards receiving.
Gordon has continued to practice with the team.
Second wave of former players join NFL lawsuit: Former Pro Bowl defender Marcellus Wiley added his name to a lawsuit accusing NFL teams of illegally dispensing powerful narcotics and other drugs to keep players on the field without regard for their long-term health.
"The first thing people ask is, knowing what happened, would you do it again?" asked Wiley, currently an ESPN analyst. "No. No I wouldn't."
The lawsuit was originally filed May 20 in U.S. District Court in northern California and amended Wednesday to add 250 more players, bringing the total to 750 plaintiffs. Wiley, who played in Buffalo, San Diego, Dallas and Jacksonville from 1997-2006, is the ninth player identified by name, joining former Chicago Bears Jim McMahon, Richard Dent and Keith Van Horne, Jeremy Newberry and others.
The lawsuit, which is seeking class certification, covers the years 1968-2008. It contends team physicians and trainers across the NFL routinely — and often illegally — provided powerful narcotics and other controlled substances on game days to mask the pain.
Among them were the painkillers Percodan, Percocet and Vicodin, anti-inflammatories such as Toradol, and sleep aids such as Ambien. Lead attorney Steven Silverman said some teams filled out prescriptions in players' names without their knowledge or consent. He said those drugs were then "handed out like candy at Halloween" and often combined in "cocktails."
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment.
The former players have reported a range of debilitating effects, from chronic muscle and bone ailments to permanent nerve and organ damage to addiction. The players contend those health problems came from drug use but many of the conditions aren't tied to the use of painkillers.
Six of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including McMahon and Van Horne, were also parties to the concussion-related class-action lawsuit filed against the NFL less than a year ago. The NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle that case — without acknowledging it concealed the risks of concussions from former players. A federal judge has yet to approve the settlement, expressing concern the amount is too small.
Wiley, 39, was not part of the concussion lawsuit but decided to join former players in this one after suffering partial renal failure in April, despite no history of kidney problems. Wiley said he took "multiple injections" of painkillers over the course of a season to cope with an injury that then-San Diego team physician Dr. David Chao diagnosed as severe groin sprain. After the season, an independent doctor diagnosed a torn abdominal wall that required surgery.
"You can't walk into a doctor's office and say, "Give me this, give me that, just to get through the day.' Somebody would shut the place down," Wiley added in a telephone interview. "But that's what was going on in the NFL. It's easy to get mesmerized. I won't deny that; there's this 'play through-the-pain, fall-on-the-sword' culture, and somebody in line ready to step up and take your place...
"And the next question when people hear about this stuff is 'where's the personal responsibility?' Well, I'm not a medical doctor but I did take the word of a medical doctor who took an oath to get me through not just one game, or one season, but a lifetime. Meanwhile, he's getting paid by how many bodies he gets out on the field."
Chao stepped down as San Diego's team physician last June, after the NFL Players Association called for him to be replaced and filed a complaint. An independent panel cleared Chao.
In April, as part of a stipulated settlement, Chao was placed on probation by the Medical Board of California. His license was also revoked but that action was stayed while he remains on probation. He was accused of committing gross negligence, repeated negligent acts and acts of dishonesty or corruption. Chao was also found liable of malpractice in 2012 in a case involving a regular patient, not a Chargers player, with a judgment of nearly $5.2 million. Records also show he has been publicly reprimanded by the board and pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.
The lawsuit's main burden is proving cause and effect — that use of painkillers in the past caused the chronic problems the players face now. The players also would have to show that they are suffering those problems at a greater rate than other people their age and that it's not due to other risk factors such as obesity, smoking and family history.