JOHNNY FOOTBALL TO RETURN?

Canadian League clears Johnny Manziel to sign a contract to play football again

No. 2 might get a second chance North of the border. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Should we call him Johnny “Canadian” Football?

Former Cleveland Brown and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has been cleared by the Canadian Football league to sign a contract, presumably with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Hamilton now has 10 days to make him an offer or trade his rights. If neither happens after that point, he becomes a free agent.

Manziel -- perhaps the greatest A&M football player ever -- has not seen the field since being released by Cleveland in 2016. He was a 2014 first-round draft pick after two explosive seasons at A&M, including a year where he won the Heisman.

But like a lot of great college players, things fell apart when he reached the pros. His work ethic was questionable, and off-the-field incidents with alcohol, drugs and domestic violence helped end his career quickly.

The CFL basically had to do a months-long investigation into Manziel before clearing him to be offered a contract. They have attached conditions to his eligibility. Here is the statement the league released:

“Since last summer, the Canadian Football League has been engaged in a thorough process to determine the eligibility of Johnny Manziel. This process has been conducted with the cooperation of Mr. Manziel and independent of the team which currently holds his CFL rights, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

It has included an ongoing assessment by an independent expert on the issue of violence against women, a review by legal counsel, and an in-person interview of Mr. Manziel conducted by the Commissioner. As well, Mr. Manziel has been required to meet a number of conditions set by the league.

As a result of this process, the Commissioner has now informed Mr. Manziel and the Tiger-Cats he is prepared to approve a contract for Mr. Manziel should one be negotiated.

The process that led to this decision does, however, continue. Mr. Manziel has been informed he must continue to meet a number of conditions in order to remain eligible. These conditions, while extensive and exacting, remain confidential.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have 10 days to make an offer to Johnny Manziel in order to keep his rights or to trade his rights to another team. If Manziel does not receive an offer from the Tiger-Cats or isn’t traded by January 7th, 2018, he will become a free-agent."

I watch a lot of CFL football and really enjoy the league, but it is a different game. The field is wider, the end zone is 25 yards deep, wide receivers get a running start and there are only three downs. The game puts a premium on a quarterback with a  strong arm and mobility, and unlike the NFL size is not a huge factor. All of that should play to Manziel’s strengths.

If Ti-Cats head coach June Jones -- the former SMU and Hawaii coach (and Oilers assistant back in the day) -- is to be believed, Manziel will be offered a deal in Hamilton.

"I think he'd be the best player to ever play up here," Jones said. "He can throw it and he can run it like nobody ever has been able to do."

Manziel very well could be a star in the league. The quality of play is a lot better than people realize -- every roster is littered with former NFL players -- and it is not as simple as walking on a field and doing what he did at A&M.

If Manziel puts in the work, he could revitalize his career. Doug Flutie used the league to get back to the NFL, but he was an outlier. More former college stars fail in Canada than succeed. (Most recently, Vince Young tried it). But Manziel is still young enough and presumably talented enough to get things jumpstarted.

The big question is will he straighten his life out enough to be a success on the field? The skill is certainly not in question. If he focuses on improving his game and keeping his nose clean off the field, he can be an impact player. Jones’ overhyping aside, he definitely can have success. But only if he avoids the massive train wrecks that have followed him throughout his career and deals with the inevitable adversity.

Manziel was amazing to watch in college, and he could be for Hamilton, too. If he plays well, it will help him get back on track and raise the profile of the CFL in the States. If not? The Ti-Cats, who were terrible last season, lose nothing.

No matter how it plays out, it should be fun to watch. As it has been throughout his career, either Manziel will be a star or the victim of yet another massive train wreck.

WWE's Royal Rumble arrives this Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Photo by Paul Muth

I'm not a big sign guy.

You know sign guys. The people who write puns on posters. The ones who carry the letter "D" in one had and a cutout of a literal fence in the other. The "Houston, YOU have a problem" sign guys.

I tried it once when I was 14, was punched in the face, and sort of lost my appetite after that.

Let me explain.

It was April 1, 2001. Wrestlemania 17. I won't ask my parents how much it cost them, but my aunt and uncle scored floor seats to the greatest spectacle in sports entertainment in no better confines than the Astrodome herself and I got to tag along.

It was a hell of a show. Some say it was one of the best Wrestlemanias ever. The card was stacked, including a Triple-H match against the hometown hero The Undertaker that set the stage for the main event.

At precisely two hours and forty-eight minutes into the event, Undertaker sent Triple-H flying over the barricade and "INTO THE STANDS!"

"Holy crap," 14-year-old Paul thought. "They're headed right down my aisle."

Now I'm not sure how it works these days, but back then it was totally customary to bail on your seat and follow the fight as they weaved up and down the aisles. I wasn't about to miss the chance so I grabbed my poorly scribbled wrestling poster, glanced back and my Aunt for the OK, then darted after the action.

The fight snaked its way up to some scaffolding with a camera perched atop. There, the fight would stall as they battled their way to the top. Oblivious to anything but the action in front of me, I threw my sign up as high as I could, probably screamed at the top of my lungs, and my voice probably cracked in the process. I was 14.

Suddenly someone pushed me in the back of my shoulder. I turned around and there was an old lady, maybe five feet tall, standing on her chair. She had the quintessential cowgirl big hair and enough costume jewelry on to short-circuit a metal detector.

"GET THE @#$% OUT THE WAY, BOY," she commanded in the most east Texas accent you've ever heard in your life. I ignored her and turned back around.

Then she pushed me again.

I turned around again and before I had any clue what was happening, this knockoff mini Dolly Parton had already connected a stiff left hook to my temple. She then grabbed my sign and ripped it in half. Stunned, I retreated to my seat while tending to a now bleeding eyebrow thanks to what I assume was a Wal-Mart engagement ring.

Haven't really been a big sign guy since.

But this weekend the WWE takes over Minute Maid Park for their annual Pay-Per-View event known as the Royal Rumble. It will be the first time since that fateful night in the Astrodome 19 years ago that I've returned to a high profile wrestling event.

Now am I looking forward to this weekend as an opportunity to retake the dignity that was ripped away so long ago? Probably not. I'll most likely just drink a bunch of beer and yell at wrestlers with my friends. But I'm not ruling anything out.

Now instead of a power rankings this week, I figured that in the spirit of the Royal Rumble we could rehash some of the best sports fights Houston's served up:

#5 Charles Barkley throws man through window

Now I know this one didn't happen on a court, but the story is just too good. In a classic case of "play stupid games, win stupid prizes," a 5'2" Floridian by the name of Jorge Lugo decided to harrass the 6'6" then-power forward for the Houston Rockets at an Orlando bar . Barkley ignored and avoided the issue until a Lugo-thrown glass intended for Barkley missed and struck a nearby woman. Bad move. When judge presiding over the ensuing case asked Barkley if he had any regrets, The Round Mound of Rebound replied "Yeah, I regret we weren't on a higher floor."

#4 Chris Paul serves a two-piece to Rajon Rondo

This one is actually fairly recent and adds to what I discovered was a hefty list of Rockets throw downs. After breaking up a stare down between Lakers forward Brandon Ingram and James Harden, Paul and Rondo began a heated chest-to-chest exchange. From all replay indications it appeared as if Rondo then spit on Paul, which triggered a disrespectful finger push to Rondo's face, which then descended into a good old fashioned knuckle sandwich exchange. Paul was suspended for two games.

#3 Derrick Lewis verifies amateur of amateur status

Some dude actually had the nerve to walk in to UFC Heavyweight fighter and Houston native Derrick Lewis' gym and pick a fight. The amateur claimed that he would knock Lewis out because he was an MMA fighter, and not a real boxer. "The Black Beast" was more than happy to oblige, and swiftly teleported the no name into the shadow realm.

#2 Vernon Maxwell fights Portland man

Sometimes people forget that sporting events are intended to be family friendly. Some also forget that players are people with actual feelings. Maxwell claims that aside from general harassment, a Portland fan decided to bring Maxwell's wife's recent miscarriage to light as well. Maxwell stood up from the bench, calmly walked up the stairs, and knocked the crap out of the dude. Maxwell was suspended 10 games.

#1 Andre Johnson baptizes Courtland Finnegan

It had been seasons in the making. Finnegan had built a reputation out of adding cheap shots here and there, ripping helmets off at the end of plays, and various other dirty tactics. In late November of 2010 Johnson had reached the end of his rope. Schadenfreude was the flavor of the day for all Texans fans as Johnson manhandled Finnegan, reigning down fists of righteous justice.

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