Johnny Manziel's XFL interest tests league's policy on players with off-field issues

Former college football star Johnny Manziel’s stated interest in playing for the revived XFL when it launches in spring 2020 could test the fledgling league’s approach to players with a history of off-field issues.

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The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner expressed interest last weekend in playing for the XFL’s franchises in Houston or Dallas, the Houston Chronicle reported. A first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Manziel lasted just two years in the league before the Cleveland Browns released him following poor on-field performance and a series of incidents in his personal life.

XFL founder Vince McMahon has said that the league will not accept any players with a history of criminal behavior or character issues. Manziel faced a domestic charge stemming from a January 2016 altercation with his then-girlfriend, though the charge was later dropped.

“You want someone who does not have any criminality associated whatsoever with them. In the XFL, even if you have a DUI, you will not play in the XFL,” McMahon said in a press conference in January 2018. “So that will probably eliminate some of them, not all of them. If Tim Tebow wants to play, he can very well play.”

Despite McMahon’s remarks, the XFL has not explicitly said that Manziel is barred from its rosters. XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck said the league had not instituted a ban on Manziel during an appearance on Pro Football Talk PM earlier this year.

XFL representatives did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on Manziel’s status with the league.

Manziel has had short stints in the Canadian Football League and the now-defunct Alliance of American Football in recent years. The CFL effectively banned Manziel from returning to the league earlier this year for unspecified violations of his contract with the Montreal Alouettes. June Jones, head coach of the XFL’s Houston franchise, previously coached Manziel during his time with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

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"Coach Jones is a great guy," Manziel told Fox 26, according to ESPN. "I enjoyed him from an offensive standpoint, from a personal standpoint. He's been there for me, especially when I was in Hamilton, getting to a new place, a different country. I enjoyed my time with him very thoroughly, and I think it would be a great opportunity."