Sumlin defends QB Manziel's non-response
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin on Tuesday addressed the criticism QB Johnny Manziel received in the aftermath of the Aggies' 52-31 win over Rice, shedding light on the events that happened after he received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin on Tuesday addressed the criticism Johnny Manziel received in the aftermath of the Aggies' 52-31 win over Rice on Saturday and shed more light on the events that happened immediately after the quarterback received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Sumlin attempted to clear up a misconception that Manziel "ignored" the head coach after Sumlin yelled at him following the 15-yard personal foul penalty, which was assessed after he threw a touchdown pass to Mike Evans, exchanged words with a Rice defensive player and pointed at the scoreboard.
"When he came off the field, basically I made two statements to him, neither one of which should he have responded to," Sumlin said. "They weren't questions. They were direct statements that I can't repeat right now. So what's amazing to me is the perception that he ignored me. The worst thing that could have happened was for him to reply, based on what I told him."
Sumlin said that people who claim that the team is undisciplined based on that action are jumping to conclusions.
"For people to say 'You know what, he's not listening to his coach and there's no discipline on this team,' they're not around this football team," Sumlin said. "They're not around this program. A lot of people who have made statements about that weren't anywhere near the sideline. I haven't heard one guy or any person who was near that sideline, who heard (what) was said, speak up about what happened. So, you can get different perspectives sitting in a studio or behind a television than you would have gotten live. That's where we are with that. "
Manziel was not made available to the media during the Aggies' weekly news conference Tuesday or after the game Saturday. Sumlin said that it's a decision that involves several people and Manziel will be made available at some point.
"It's not just my decision in what goes on with that," Sumlin said. "We feel like right now is not the time. Will there be a time? Sure there will be. I think you look back at the events of Saturday in a volatile situation and the way that game ended, I don't think that's a time for he or Deshazor [Everett]. That's been past history."
Everett was ejected after being called for targeting.
"Will there be a time for [Manziel] to talk? You bet," Sumlin said. "I think he's done a lot of media, December, January, going to SEC media days in the biggest media -- I won't say circus -- but the biggest media deal there is.
"I think it's important now, based on where he is, that his focus is to try to be our quarterback and a student-athlete. That's his biggest challenge right now. It's not his challenge to be here. That's me. Like I said before, this is college football; it's not pro football. That will be coming, but certainly, right now, we don't think that it's the right time."
As for Manziel's celebrations, which included the "money" gesture of rubbing his fingers together and miming of signing an autograph -- which Owls' defensive lineman Stuart Mouchantaf could be seen on video doing to Manziel, as well -- Sumlin indicated that it's not an issue for Manziel or his team.
"A lot of things are being made out of some things that went on last year," Sumlin said. "I had someone come to me and ask me about the money signal. It's the same thing he did all of last year and a couple other players in the country doing that. But when he does it, there's an issue. 'Let's tie it to something else.'
"Has he kind of painted himself in a box with that, with some other issues? Probably. But at a certain point, his actions on the field are going to have to show where he is."
Sumlin voiced his displeasure after Saturday's game with the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and benched Manziel as a result. Sumlin said it's his and the coaching staff's duty to make sure Manziel's emotions -- and the team's -- are conveyed in a positive way.
"Anybody who watches Johnny knows that he plays with a lot of emotion and a lot of passion in this game. Because of that, he gets into a gray area," Sumlin said. "It's our job as coaches to keep that passion and energy going, but make it positive. Does that make sense? That was a discussion that we had yesterday, not just with him, but with a lot of players.
"What you don't want to do is kill that emotion and that passion because I think it's what separates Johnny from a lot of different players. What we can do is sit down and say, 'Hey listen, that same emotion and that same passion can be used positively, and here's how you've got to do that.'"
Sumlin said even if Manziel had addressed the media Tuesday, it wouldn't have changed some people's perception of him.
"Why isn't he out here talking? I don't think right now that him coming here and saying a word is going to change some people's opinion about who he is," Sumlin said. "... It's my job as a coach to prepare him and it's my job as a coach to keep his energy positive and try to channel that energy and emotion and make it positive. And at the appropriate time, he'll be able to speak for himself."
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