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Give Manziel a freaking break

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Jen Floyd Engel

Jen Floyd Engel, selected as the top columnist in the 2012 Associated Press Sports Editors annual contest, started working at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997 and became a columnist in 2003 before joining FOXSports.com. Sports opinions? She's never short of them. And love her or hate her, she'll be just another one of the boys. Follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.

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Johnny Manziel had what, by all accounts, was a pretty awesome and pretty standard weekend for a college kid.

He partied with friends. He was overserved. He slept in.

Of course, Johnny is not an ordinary college kid, or he is — depending on what argument is being made and by whom and in what context. One discussion is why should we pay college football players when they are just like any other scholarship student. But when they fail to show up for voluntary work at Archie Manning’s passing camp because of a rocking hangover, they are not simply scholarship students. Then they are anointed representatives of the university who must comport themselves as such at all times.

What a fun double standard for kids like Johnny Manziel, who spent Sunday taking on various degrees of Twitter fire from NFL and college media as well as fans. His sin was the very egregious one of not respecting the sanctity of Manning’s passing camp and thus allowing a bunch of media members, who I guarantee at one time have followed morning-after Advil with Gatorade chasers in press boxes, to play the “He’s a Heisman winner now, a celeb, and needs to handle everything better …” card.

He’s a football player, not a brain surgeon. And everybody who never once got drunk in college feel free to criticize Johnny Football. All of the rest of us need to shut the hell up, or at very least be somewhat consistent.

This Johnny Football criticism drips of paternalistic, whiny double-standard application. We dissect a kid for possibly being too hung over to help at a passing camp and basically ignore the pair of middle-aged Denver Broncos execs getting overserved, driving and being busted for DUI. This is especially rich considering how much of this Johnny Football angst has been couched as how he’s sending up red flags to NFL execs about whether to draft him.

BLOODY GOOD

See the best action photos from last season.

How does that discussion go in Denver?

We can’t touch this kid. He drinks a lot.

So do we.

Oh right. Never mind.

And let’s slow this roll, too, about how this potentially impacts his draft stock in organizations where the whole front office is smart enough to designate a driver. Neither drunk nor immature have been disqualifiers for NFL service as far as I can tell. Of course, teams will delve into Manziel’s character. They will ignore what they find if he is talented enough. They surely will if being overserved and pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in relation to a bar fight and tone-deaf Twittering remain his biggest drawbacks. The revolving cast of character-less characters drafted by and playing for NFL teams suggests what we all know: Talent covers up all manner of reservations.

This is not to say they will not talk about Manziel’s maturity, his decision-making, his seeming proclivity for making news with his social life. It’s just that none of this will matter as much as his slight build, his being vertically challenged and how far and accurately he can throw that ball.

WE ARE FIRED UP!

College football fans are some of the most passionate in sports. See them in action.

If he has a big season, he’ll be fine. And past performance suggests he’ll have another big season. Look, he was drinking and dressing up as Scooby and chasing tail and attending Mavs games in the weeks leading up to the Cotton Bowl. There was much debate about how this might impact him in this game. He absolutely torched Oklahoma, finishing with four touchdowns and 516 yards.

I was at JerryWorld talking to him afterward, and nothing about him said, “I have seen the error of my ways.” This was a kid who enjoyed just sticking it to all of his critics.

Because this is what 20-year-old college kids sometimes do. They party with friends. They get overserved. They oversleep. So what Manziel’s critics are really dissecting him for is being a normal college kid and learning personal responsibility that comes with choices, and this seems unfair.

Tagged: Texas A&M, Johnny Manziel

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