MONTREAL — A healthy Johnny Manziel is wondering why he’s not starting for the Montreal Alouettes.
The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback returned to practice on Thursday and set the cat among the pigeons, asking out loud if the club had lost faith in him.
The 25-year-old said he had been healthy and available to play for the previous two weeks, fully recovered from the concussion he suffered in just his second start for the Als — a 24-17 loss to Ottawa on Aug. 11.
"If the club had faith in me, I feel like I would be the guy, I feel like I would’ve been the guy after I came back from the concussion," Manziel said. "That hasn’t happened, so I need to continue to get out here. And it’s the hardest part about missing practice, I need these reps to try to leave as little doubt as possible in my ability to play."
Manziel was at practice for the first time this week after being sidelined by a flu bug that required IVs to replace fluids Tuesday and Wednesday.
While he said he feels well enough to play Friday when the Alouettes (3-8-0) host the B.C. Lions (4-6-0), Antonio Pipkin is expected to start. Matthew Shiltz is the other quarterback on the Als’ roster.
"I hope this organization, I hope the people here haven’t lost faith in my ability to play, and I still get a chance to come back and get a chance to be in with the (starters) and play, because that’s what I came up here to do and that’s what I want to do," Manziel said.
Als coach Mike Sherman said it was "too soon" to predict whether Manziel would be the team’s third quarterback on Friday.
"Seems like he’s doing better, so we’ll evaluate him a little bit more… I really haven’t even talked to the trainers about him other than the face they gave him IVs yesterday at the doctors, and he’s feeling much better today," Sherman said.
Manziel, with a white baseball cap pulled low over his eyes, did little but watch Thursday’s pre-game walkthrough at Montreal’s practice facility in the shadow of Olympic Stadium. At times, he spun a football in his hand.
In a six-minute interview with reporters afterward, he said he feels like he’s spinning his wheels with his second CFL team. What’s particularly frustrating, he said, is the Alouettes traded "half of an organization I feel like in terms of what they gave up to get me here."
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats dealt Manziel and offensive linemen Tony Washington and Landon Rice to Montreal on July 22 for Canadian defensive end Jamaal Westerman and receiver Chris Williams as well as 2020 and 2021 first-round picks.
Manziel, who made headlines across North America when he signed a two-year contract with Hamilton prior to the start of training camp, didn’t see any regular-season action backing up Ticats incumbent Jeremiah Masoli.
It’s hard, he said, not to see similarities in his current situation.
"That’s where maybe it’s a little bit lost on me, because I felt like I was brought in here to be a piece, had a lot of faith in me the first couple of weeks I was here … since I missed the games because of the concussion and then not getting to play once I was back has been frustrating for sure, because I felt like there was a lot of hope, and a lot of faith in me being the guy here," he said.
"How quickly that’s changed in two weeks is tough."
Pipkin has led Montreal to consecutive victories and is 2-1 as the club’s starter. He has 762 yards passing with a TD and four interceptions while having rushed for 127 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries.
Manziel has started two games for Montreal, both losses. He has completed 27 of 46 passes for 272 yards and four interceptions.
Manziel, who served as Pipkin’s backup for the Als’ 21-11 victory over the Redblacks on Aug. 31, recalled something Sherman told him when he first arrived in Montreal.
"He said ‘This has to work, and this will work,"’ said Manziel, who’s known Sherman since the coach recruited him to play at Texas A&M. "And I feel a little frustrated at this point, because coming off the injury, I’m not getting a chance to play, and I’m sick, I miss a couple days of practice, and now I feel I put myself way behind where I need to be."
He added: "But I’m going to continue to be the best teammate I can be, and I’m going to continue to be the best person for this organization, regardless of who’s playing or what the case is, or frustration."
Veterans Drew Willy, Jeff Mathews and Vernon Adams are all on the club’s six-game injured list.
The Als are approaching the game as a must-win, Sherman said, with plenty of playoff implications. The Lions are just ahead of Montreal in the race for the crossover playoff spot.
"They understand totally the implications of this and every game," Sherman said. "Just have to focus on winning one game. It’s a one-game season in my mind."
B.C. Lions (4-6-0) at Montreal Alouettes (3-8-0)
Friday, Percival Molson Memorial Stadium
BUONO’S FAREWELL: B.C.’s retiring head coach Wally Buono will make his final on-field appearance in Montreal as either a CFL player or coach. In his previous 139 appearances in Montreal, with the Alouettes (player and coach), the Calgary Stampeders, and B.C., his teams went 76-58-5.
ROAD WOES: The B.C. Lions are 0-5 away from home this season. The last time the Lions lost six straight on the road was in 1969. They also opened the ’72 season 0-5.