After NFL Network’s Mike Silver reported that Johnny Manziel had shown up to practice drunk and the Browns covered it up by saying he had a concussion, the entire story has become more confusing.
First, the Browns released a statement saying that Silver’s report was false, that they did not lie, and that an independent neurologist diagnosed Manziel with a concussion.
Silver then released a statement saying he regretted his use of the word “lied,” did not have direct knowledge of the doctor’s diagnosis of Manziel, but that he stood by his report that Manziel was drunk.
However, ESPN then reported that a Browns source told Adam Schefter that Manziel was hungover at practice, not drunk, and that Manziel was diagnosed with a concussion. Via ESPN:
One well-placed Browns source who had contact with Manziel on Dec. 30 told Schefter: “Manziel looked terrible. He wasn’t drunk, but he was heavily hung over on something. There was something going on there.”
Manziel complained that he was having trouble with light, was vomiting and had a headache.
“This wasn’t some massive cover-up,” the source told Schefter. “What are you going to do? You have to put him in the protocol.”
As ESPN notes, symptoms like headaches, nausea, and dizziness are all classic symptoms of a concussion, and that if players complain of these symptoms, the team has little choice but to put them in concussion protocol. A Browns source told ESPN that Manziel had arrived late to a Wednesday meeting looking disheveled before the Browns took him out of the meeting and put him into concussion protocol.
“He was not drunk that day, but he was [recovering] from being on something,” a Browns source told ESPN. “I don’t know what he was doing the night before, but something was wrong with him.”
Clearly, Manziel is going through serious, personal trouble, and whether he was drunk at the time of the meeting or hungover matters little when there’s significant evidence that he’s suffering with substance abuse.
What does matter, however, is how the Browns treated it. If the Browns had made up the concussion to cover for Manziel, that would be troubling news. But ESPN reports that in the week prior, Manziel took some big hits against the Kansas City Chiefs, and many of his symptoms (which could have some overlap with a hangover) suggest he had a concussion. According to the Browns statement and the ESPN report, it sounds as if the Browns were on the right track by putting Manziel into protocol due to what he was experiencing.
Either way, Manziel is in a downward spiral and clearly needs help.