By Tom Withers
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BEREA, Ohio _ All that running around _ on the field _ caught up with Johnny Manziel.
Cleveland’s free-wheeling, fun-loving quarterback was diagnosed with a concussion on Wednesday and has been entered into the NFL’s protocol for head injuries, likely ending his second season with one game left.
Manziel took several hard hits while rushing for 108 yards last week _ the most by a Browns QB _ against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Browns end their season Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Manziel reported to the team’s facility complaining of concussion-like symptoms. He was sent to see a doctor for evaluation and the team announced following practice that he’s been placed in the league’s strict program designed to protect players from long-term medical issues.
Manziel, who made progress on the field during another drama-filled season, is the 14th Browns player to be diagnosed with a concussion since the start of training camp. Because it usually takes several days for symptoms to subside, Manziel’s season is almost certainly over.
Backup Austin Davis is expected to start against the Steelers, who must beat the Browns to have any chance of making the AFC playoffs. It’s possible Cleveland will sign another quarterback or the Browns will use former Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who converted to wide receiver this season, as Davis’ backup. Pryor took some snaps during Wednesday’s practice.
Manziel kept the Browns in against the Chiefs with his running ability, but he paid a price.
On the first play of the second half, Manziel picked up 34 yards and he made several other key runs. In all, he ran 11 times and was punished for his daring.
Browns coach Mike Pettine said “there were a bunch” of big shots taken by Manziel, including a legal helmet-to-helmet blow by linebacker Josh Mauga in the second quarter. Manziel was also landed on by 288-pound defensive end Allen Bailey following a scramble in the fourth quarter. He was briefly checked by the team’s medical staff and kept playing.
Manziel experienced head and neck pain earlier this week and told the Browns about it after arriving on Wednesday.
Browns quarterback Josh McCown, who suffered a concussion on the season’s opening drive, knew Manziel had taken a beating.
“I just saw the hit the other day, and I was obviously concerned because it was a pretty tough lick,” McCown said. “We follow the steps in how you feel and you know your body better than anyone else.”
The premature conclusion prevents Manziel from another shot at the Steelers. He passed for a career-high 372 yards against them last month before he was benched two games by Pettine for his behaviour during the team’s bye week. Manziel, who went 2-4 as a starter this season, had promised Cleveland coaches he would not be a distraction while the team was off and then he appeared in a video partying in Texas.
Earlier this week, a second video surfaced of Manziel of him partying in his home last week. Pettine said Manziel will not be disciplined for the latest video.
“At some point this week when he is back in the building, I’ll get a chance to talk to him about it,” Pettine said.
“I know he was at home. He was at home on his day off. But as far as the judgment of it getting out there, I question that,” Pettine said. “But other than that, this is not similar to the circumstances that (led to his demotion). Going back to there, that was more trust and accountability than it was necessarily the act.”
The Browns also announced that starting cornerback Tramon Williams has been placed in concussion protocol, further depleting their banged-up secondary.
Pettine said the team is exploring the reason for its unusually high number of concussions this season.
“I know the number has been high here in Cleveland even going back a couple years,” Pettine said. “Our training staff is already looking at those and pulling individual clips. Hopefully we will have better answers as to the why as the off-season moves on.”
NOTES: TE Gary Barnidge was voted the team’s MVP by local reporters. Barnidge enters the finale with 71 catches for 977 yards and nine touchdowns. McCown was selected as the “Good Guy” for his co-operation with the media. … WR Travis Benjamin (ankle) and LB Karlos Dansby (toe) didn’t practice but Pettine is hopeful they’ll play Sunday. … This will be the fourth consecutive season the Browns have started a third-string QB in the finale.
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