CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said Wednesday that he felt "good" about a conversation in September with quarterback Johnny Manziel but is awaiting the results of a multi-faceted expert analysis before deciding whether to approve him for play in the league.
Manziel's rights are held exclusively by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He triggered a process last summer that would require the Tiger-Cats to offer him a contract or relinquish is rights, but Ambrosie stepped in to ensure what he called a "thorough and thoughtful" decision was made about Manziel's eligibility to play in the CFL.
"He represented himself incredibly well [in the meeting]," Ambrosie said during a visit to ESPN headquarters. "He was thoughtful. I found him to be authentic and sincere. I also felt like he seems to have come to a good place in his life. He was talking a lot about his family. Now, I should say that's part of the problem. My bias is towards family. So when I'm with somebody in there talking about my family, immediately I feel good about the conversation."
"That's exactly why we feel for any player who has had some trouble in their past, it's important to not let the lay people be the only part of the decision-making process. That's why we've implemented a process where we'll lean very heavily on experts who have training and skill that will allow them to really understand where somebody is in their personal journey and be able to give me wise counsel."
Ambrosie's meeting with Manziel was the start of a process in which he will speak to investigators about his checkered past, including a 2016 domestic violence charge that ultimately was dismissed. Under the terms of the dismissal agreement, the former Cleveland Browns player and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback was required to complete an anger management class, attend a domestic violence impact panel and participate in the NFL's substance-abuse program or a similar program.
"If we reach a point where we make an announcement that someone can play," Ambrosie said, "we want to be able to look to the community and say to them that we've done our work, that we have not skipped a step."
Manziel has not played since the Cleveland Browns released him in March 2016. But Ambrosie said he could tell "very quickly" that Manziel genuinely wants to play in the CFL. And Tiger-Cats coach June Jones, the former Hawaii and SMU coach whom Hamilton hired last summer, made clear recently that he wants Manziel on his team.
"I think he'd be the best player to ever play up here," Jones said, according to the CFL web site. "He can throw it and he can run it like nobody ever has been able to do."
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