Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin says star quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel requested to avoid interviews after speaking with his family and attorneys.
George Schroeder of USA Today passed along comments from A&M's second-year coach, who's preparing his squad for a marquee matchup against No. 1 Alabama this weekend.
Of course, Manziel is coming off an offseason highlighted by controversy. The NCAA investigated him for potentially accepting payment in return for autographs in January, which led to a month of negative publicity for the Aggies quarterback.
He eventually served a half-game suspension for what was deemed an "inadvertent violation." Both the school and the NCAA found no direct evidence he actually received money in exchange for signing items, however.
Manziel's return to the field hasn't completely turned the attention back to football. In the team's opening-week victory over Rice, the quarterback seemed to make a money gesture after throwing a touchdown, drawing further attention.
Later in the game, Sumlin benched Manziel after he earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and speculation stirred that he ignored his coach while heading to the sideline. Sumlin, however, backed Manziel and cleared up the situation, per Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com:
When he came off the field, basically I made two statements to him, neither one of which should he have responded to. They weren't questions. They were direct statements that I can't repeat right now. So what's amazing to me is the perception that he ignored me. The worst thing that could have happened was for him to reply, based on what I told him.
Manziel's actions have been met with scrutiny, which he apparently doesn't want to face from the media. Avoiding interviews is the easiest way for him to avoid making any comments that would open him to further criticism.
It hasn't stopped him from being the center of discussion, though. In fact, he was even on the cover of Time magazine recently as the poster boy for an article about whether college athletes should be allowed to get paid.
Although doing interviews ultimately is up to Manziel, choosing against facing the media as one of the team's stars only puts more pressure on his teammates to handle those situations—and often the questions being asked are about him.
That said, it's clearly a decision made over time, having sought out the opinions of legal representatives and family members. Whether he consulted his Texas A&M teammates before making the request is unclear.
His choice certainly isn't going to do anything to help his budding image problem, though.
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