Off-field issues for Manziel cloud Texas A&M camp

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Johnny Football is practicing with Texas A&M.

Whether he starts the season opener is another question.

Coach Kevin Sumlin on Monday said he would

not speculate when asked if Johnny Manziel will be his starter on Aug.

31 against

Rice following an ESPN report that the NCAA is investigating

whether the Heisman Trophy winner was paid for signing hundreds

of autographs last January.

"There's a lot of people involved in that decision," Sumlin said without being specific.

If Manziel was paid for his autograph on

memorabilia, it could potentially violate NCAA amateurism rules and put

his eligibility

in question a year after his jaw-dropping performance on the field

made him the first freshman to win the Heisman as college

football's top player.

Speaking to the media as the team began preseason practices, Sumlin said he learned of the ESPN report Sunday.

For now, Manziel will lead the Aggies. But his coach is clearly thinking of backups, too.

"He'll get as many reps as he was going to get yesterday," Sumlin said of Manziel, before adding: "We've got to develop a

backup quarterback no matter what."

The report is just the latest in a string of off-the-field distractions caused by Manziel.

He's made headlines for tweeting that he

"can't wait to leave College Station," despite having three years of


remaining, he allegedly overslept at a football camp run by the

Manning family and was supposedly kicked out of a University

of Texas fraternity party in the past couple of months.

The 20-year-old sophomore calmly answered question after question at SEC media days last month, acknowledging his eventful

offseason and indicating he needed to make better decisions because he's such a public figure.

"I don't feel like I've done anything that's catastrophic," Manziel said then. "Of course, I've made my mistakes. It's time

to grow up."

Last week, Manziel tweeted: "I ain't perfect, I ain't insane but I AM worth it...if there's one thing I am worth it."

The antics have overshadowed what is

expected to be a banner year for Texas A&M. The Aggies are coming

off an 11-2 record

in their first season in the SEC after moving from the Big 12, a

year highlighted by Manziel leading Texas A&M to an upset

win at No. 1 Alabama. The rematch in College Station is Sept. 14.

But instead of answering questions about his expectations for the season, Sumlin was left to respond to question after question

about Manziel.

"I've been through different things," Sumlin said. "As a coach when those things happen, it's not what happens to you, it's

how you deal with it. We've got a veteran staff that knows how to deal with different situations."

Manziel's teammates seem unfazed by his recent trouble and said that nothing has changed in the way they view their quarterback.

"He still has all leadership qualities he displayed last year, he's being more vocal now, he's taking on more of the leadership

responsibilities," running back Ben Malena said. "The off the field issues doesn't bother us not one bit when it comes to

a team aspect."

Manziel and the rest of the Aggies had their first practice late Monday afternoon. If the problems were weighing on Manziel,

it was hard to tell by watching him on the field.

He laughed and talked with teammates before

they lined up to stretch. The Aggies practice to music and when the

first song

of the day, the track "Versace" by Migos featuring Manziel's buddy

rapper Drake came on, the quarterback looked carefree as

he bobbed his head and bounced to the catchy tune.

The media were only allowed to watch the first 20 minutes of practice and there were no full team drills during that time.

Manziel threw a few passes while the quarterbacks and receivers worked alone on a section of the field surrounded by dozens

of reporters.

While Sumlin is working through the Manziel situation, he noted that a much more difficult task was talking to his team about

the recent death of defensive lineman Polo Manukainiu, who was killed in a New Mexico car crash along with two others.

"It was not an easy topic," Sumlin said.

"It's one of the hardest things a coach has to deal with. In a way

getting back together

as a group and getting back in the routine, going out on the field

today, somehow that might help. Because these guys share

the same kind of emotions the same kind of feelings for a guy that

they cared very, very deeply about."

He also said starting defensive tackle Kirby Ennis, who was arrested in February on a weapons charge, will be suspended for

the Rice game.