Johnny Manziel will not play in CFL this season, league announces

TORONTO — Johnny Manziel won’t be kick-starting his pro football career in the CFL this season.

The CFL announced Wednesday it won’t approve a contract for the former Heisman Trophy winner until next season, and only if the 24-year-old quarterback met certain conditions stipulated by commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

"After an extensive process of due diligence and an in-person meeting with Mr. Manziel, the commissioner has decided that he will not register any contract for Mr. Manziel for this season," the league said in a statement. "However, Mr. Manziel will be eligible to sign a contract for the 2018 season and, if Mr. Manziel meets certain conditions that have been spelled out by the commissioner, the CFL will register that contract.

"The specifics of those conditions are confidential and will not be disclosed."

Manziel has been on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ 45-man negotiation list since his days at Texas A&M. The Ticats put the five-foot-11, 210-pound Manziel through a series of medical and physical tests Aug. 23-24 in Buffalo, N.Y., before team coaches and front-office personnel.

Kent Austin, Hamilton’s vice-president of football operations, confirmed the testing Aug. 30 but said at the time the club wasn’t interested in signing Manziel.

But according to a league source, Manziel’s representatives told the Ticats on Sept. 2 they wanted a contract offer from the CFL club. So in accordance with CFL rules, Hamilton had 10 days to make a contract offer, trade Manziel’s CFL rights or simply stand pat, which would’ve resulted in Manziel automatically coming off the franchise’s list.

An extension was granted, in part to put in place a process for Manziel and future players who’ve faced allegations of violence against women in the past. The CFL had stipulated that Manziel would have to undergo an assessment with a domestic violence prevention official and meet with Ambrosie, who would then decide whether to approve the contract.

In January 2016, Manziel was charged after being accused of hitting and threatening a former girlfriend before reaching an agreement with prosecutors to dismiss the case.

Erik Burkhardt, Manziel’s agent, didn’t immediately return a telephone message. But Manziel told ESPN’s Adam Schefter he thought the meeting with Ambrosie went well.

"I recently had a really positive meeting with Commissioner Ambrosie and welcomed the chance for us to get to know each other and have an in-depth talk about a possible future with the CFL," Manziel said. "I’m ready to play today, but we all agreed with the commissioner that it made no sense for me to join a team with only a month left in the season. It wouldn’t have been fair to my teammates, coaches or the fan base.

"I want to come into a team and earn my job day one, like everyone else. I look forward to preparing myself as best I can and look forward to what the future holds."

The league also stated Manziel will remain on Hamilton’s negotiation list until Nov. 30, meaning the Ticats have until then to offer Manziel a contract or trade his rights to another CFL club.

Austin told reporters in Hamilton on Wednesday he supports the process Ambrosie has put forth.

"I’ve got a great deal of respect for Randy and I know the process he put in place is going to be a good process." Austin said. "I have a great deal of faith that he’s doing the right thing primarily for the individual involved here and also for the league."

And Austin doesn’t envision trading Manziel’s rights before the Nov. 30 deadline.

"I would say that to be highly unlikely," he said. "It wouldn’t make any sense for us right now to not go through the process with the league and to see the outcome of that."

Manziel captured the 2012 Heisman Trophy as U.S. college football’s top player, becoming the first freshman ever to win the award. The Cleveland Browns took Manziel — affectionately dubbed "Johnny Football" — in the first round, No. 22 overall in the 2014 NFL draft.

But following two tumultuous seasons, the Browns released Manziel in March 2016 after he posted a 2-6 record as a starter.

If Manziel signs a CFL contract that’s approved by Ambrosie it would cover two seasons — one year plus an option — meaning the earliest he could return to the NFL would be in time for the 2020 season.