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Johnny Manziel expected to return to Browns following rehab

Johnny Manziel is expected to be back on the field with the Cleveland Browns next month following the completion of months of treatment.

General manager Ray Farmer said Monday at the NFL owner’s meetings in Phoenix that the team will not have exclusive authority in determining when the second-year quarterback rejoins the team. Instead, that will be decided by counselors overseeing Manziel’s rehab treatment.

“I don’t think it’s in doubt,” Farmer said in response to questions about Manziel attending the Browns’ April 20 workout. “Again, I’m not the point person in that. So I would defer to those kind of controlling his care and let them decide what that looks likes.”

Manziel began rehab in late January and has been visited by coach Mike Pettine among others.

He will come back to a new challenger for Cleveland’s quarterback job — veteran Josh McCown signed with the Browns after one season in Tampa Bay, and 2014 starter Brian Hoyer left via free agency to join the Houston Texans — and again be the focus of questions and doubts about his ability to function in the NFL, on and off the field.

ESPN reported Manziel is scheduled for an “early April release” from rehab. Pettine said football was far from a focal point for Manziel since he checked into a facility Jan. 28.

Farmer said the Browns are taking his commitment to his health as a positive sign for his future. A first-round pick in 2014, Manziel scored on his opening drive in an NFL game — in relief of Hoyer — but otherwise looked lost on the field last season.

He started two games, a 30-0 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and a 17-13 loss at Carolina in which he was injured after going 3 of 8 for 32 yards. Manziel ended the season on injured reserve.

His return will be closely monitored by national media and potentially HBO’s “Hard Knocks” training camp documentary. During his rookie offseason, the Browns were atypically protective in an attempt to shield Manziel from the high level of attention that has followed him since his Heisman Trophy-winning days at Texas A&M.

If he’s back and physically and emotionally committed, Manziel will be learning a new offense following coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s voluntary departure for the Atlanta Falcons.

The Browns also brought in veteran Thad Lewis and return Connor Shaw.

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