Lawyer Says Johnny Manziel Will Play in Opener, but That's Up to Texas A&M

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterAugust 9, 2013

In the case of the almighty dollar for the almighty signature of Johnny Manziel, the quarterback's attorney, Jim Darnell of El Paso, Texas, had this to say, per USA Today:

I can't say much, other than we're working through the process. He's cooperating with the investigation. We think when all this comes out on the other end, he'll be the starting quarterback for the Aggies against Rice.

It's not tough or bold talk; it is merely a confident message sent to the public from the attorney of a player who is in the midst of an NCAA investigation and is accused of taking cash to sign autographs. The sticky part here is, whether Johnny Football plays is not up to Darnell or Manziel.

It is up to Texas A&M, which means the Aggies can decide to park the Heisman-winning quarterback in their opener against Rice should the fear that he will be ruled ineligible become too great.

However, there's reason to be optimistic about Manziel playing. A&M has retained the services of Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC, the Birmingham, Ala., firm that represented Auburn in the 2010 Cam Newton investigation. Darnell represented Baylor's Scott Drew and USC's Tim Floyd against the NCAA; the Manziel situation is not his first rodeo.

Both A&M and Manziel's lawyers have ample experience dealing with the NCAA. That's a plus because, as the school, poised to have another highly profitable season, and Manziel work together, lawyers with know-how can certainly be the key to beating the NCAA.

Outside of the NCAA, everyone else directly involved in the case wants Manziel to be in the game for the Aggies. Confidence from his lawyer is a plus, but until Texas A&M confirms that he will be in the lineup, it is still the Aggies' call.

As John Infante of the Bylaw Blog over at pointed out, Kevin Sumlin is not on the hook for the autograph situation. That means the Aggies are not in the line of fire. It is purely a Manziel-versus-the-NCAA issue. Texas A&M does not face sanctions, which limits the potential ramifications for the program.

If the situation remains unresolved into the season, A&M has to choose whether to play Manziel. The lone drawback to playing him is if the quarterback is ruled ineligible down the road, then A&M would be forced to vacate the games in which he participated.

To some folks, safer is always better. Erring on the side of caution would make sense to these people.

However, playing a quarterback with no experience until the NCAA, which does not operate in an expeditious fashion, makes its decisions raises its own problems. Most notably, losses and, on a larger scale, Manziel being cleared after being parked for no reason.

The choice will not be easy, and there certainly is no clear-cut right answer. With any hope, the NCAA gets this matter sorted out before the season. But given its track record, the Aggies will be tasked with proving Manziel's lawyer correct or parking their star player.