MONTREAL — A healthy Johnny Manziel is wondering why he’s isn’t starting for the Montreal Alouettes.
The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback returned to practice Thursday and asked 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 his second start for the Als — a 24-17 loss to Ottawa on Aug. 11.
Manziel missed two games while under concussion protocol but was available for the team’s win over Ottawa on Aug. 31 when he didn’t play. The Alouettes had a bye week last week.
“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. Though he said he was well enough to play Friday night 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 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 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 fact 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 pregame 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 as if 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 when he signed a two-year contract with Hamilton before the start of training camp, didn’t get 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 in 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 has 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.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.