CLEVELAND — The Browns are defending their handling of Johnny Manziel’s late-season concussion.
The team issued a statement on Tuesday saying Manziel was diagnosed with a concussion on Dec. 30 by an independent neurologist, countering an NFL Network report that they lied about the injury to cover up the troubled quarterback showing up intoxicated for practice.
“Johnny Manziel came to our facility on the morning of December 30th and complained of concussion symptoms,” the statement read. “He was tested by an independent neurologist and entered the league’s concussion protocol. He remained in the protocol until January 12th after being cleared by the independent neurologist.”
The league’s in-house network reported citing an unnamed Browns player that the team “lied” to try and protect Manziel, who is being investigated by Dallas police on allegations of domestic violence.
Manziel missed the team’s season finale against Pittsburgh because of the concussion. He also didn’t report to a scheduled medical checkup for his head injury on Jan. 3 amid a report he was spotted partying in Las Vegas. The team did not know his exact whereabouts that day.
Following the loss to the Steelers, then-coach Mike Pettine, who was fired hours after the game, was asked if Manziel had been sent home earlier in the week because he was inebriated.
“No. No. No, that is not the case,” Pettine said.
NFL Network reporter Michael Silver sent out a series of comments on Twitter saying he stands by his report about Manziel. He also said he’ll take the Browns at their word about not covering up Manziel’s injury and “I regret using that term (‘lied’).”
There had been suspicions about Manziel’s injury during the season’s final week after Pettine first announced that the 23-year-old arrived at the team’s complex on Dec. 30 complaining of “concussion-like symptoms.”
Pettine did not specify what was bothering Manziel and only offered that “he took a pretty good shot in the game.”
Manziel had absorbed at least two hard hits during Cleveland’s Dec. 27 loss at Kansas City. He was later fined for missing his medical treatment and new director of football operations Sashi Brown said on Jan. 21 that Manziel had returned following the season for other scheduled assessments and was cleared.
The Browns intend to release Manziel next month when the league begins its new calendar year. Cleveland selected him in the first round in 2014, but the Heisman Trophy winner never lived up to expectations and now finds himself entwined in legal problems as his future in football grows cloudy.