Johnny Manziel shows flashes in 'fun' CFL debut


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Johnny Manziel is adjusting to life in the Canadian Football League one throw at a time.

The former NFL quarterback completed 9 of 11 passes for 80 yards in his CFL preseason debut Friday, but he failed to lead the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to points on any of his five offensive possessions.

Still, Manziel felt his performance was another step in the right direction as he continues to learn the nuances of the game north of the border.

"It was good," Manziel said in a fourth-quarter sideline interview with TSN's Matthew Scianitti. "Getting out there and seeing the field, seeing how these routes play out in a game vs. practice. I felt like I missed a couple things, but had some completions, led a little bit of a drive right there. I don’t know if intentional grounding is different up here than it is back in the States, but that was frustrating. Just learning the game, feeling it out. It was fun, though, I had a good time."

Manziel, who entered the game late in the second quarter in relief of starter Jeremiah Masoli, showed promise on his final possession as he led Hamilton on a 12-play, 62-yard drive that eventually stalled in the red zone after he was whistled for a 22-yard intentional grounding penalty.

All in all, Manziel took 23 snaps and looked to be most effective when he used his legs to get outside the pocket. He did just that before finding Damarr Aultman for a 21-yard completion in the third quarter, flashing a glimpse of the playmaking ability that made him a Heisman Trophy winner at Texas A&M. 

Manziel, who hadn't played in a professional game since December 2015 as a member of the Cleveland Browns, was unable to inspire his team to a victory as the Toronto Argonauts walked out with a 36-18 win. 

After shaking off some of the rust, Manziel is focused on continuing to learn the offense and improving his game.

"These games for us are pretty much a glorified another day at practice," Manziel said. "We get to come out here, fans get to come out, but other than that for us what we’re doing is what we’ve been doing at training camp. Just another day in a bigger stadium against a different team, so it was good. Look forward to next week. Look forward to this season. We’ve got great guys on this team. I love my teammates. It’s been fun to be here."

Manziel is expected to see more action when Hamilton concludes its preseason schedule against Montreal on June 9.