There he is, in the flesh and freshly mustached: Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Reportedly AWOL in recent days, Manziel was supposedly seen by a Twitter user at an Ohio Dave & Busters on Wednesday night. According to the local spotter, Manziel, who's believed by some to be battling alcoholism, wasn't drinking. He was just chilling out and shooting billiards after a week in which nobody could find him -- not even the Browns -- following his reported not-so-secret-anymore trip to Las Vegas on Saturday night.
But how did we get here? How did a week of Manziel manhunting end inside of a dark pool room? The Browns and many media members are probably asking the same question. But examining at a week's worth of reporting on Manziel's latest example of episodic behavior can help provide a more complete picture of what exactly he's been up to lately.
Saturday Morning, Jan. 2: The Great Escape
The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot reports that Manziel, sidelined by a concussion sustained against the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 27, was at the Browns practice facility on "Saturday morning" for concussion treatments. The exact time of Manziel's visit is unknown.
The only precise time stamp we have of Manziel's whereabouts comes from that same Saturday morning, when he was issued a traffic citation at 8:28 a.m on Barton road and I-480.
Presumably, Manziel made his great escape to Las Vegas sometime after his morning rendezvous with the cops and the Browns, who were preparing to face the Pittsburgh Steelers the next day. (Manziel, under the NFL's concussion protocol, was not required to attend the game.)
Saturday Night, Jan. 2: The Party Don't Start Till Johnny Walks In
It's the night you've been hearing about all week. First reported by USA Today, Manziel was seen dining, gambling and clubbing at Las Vegas' Planet Hollywood casino. If a one-off night in Las Vegas during the NFL regular season wasn't concerning enough, considering his past stint in rehab, reported alcohol-fueled domestic dispute with his girlfriend and general hard-partying image, the way Manziel went about his night in Nevada is both worrisome and amusing.
That night, Johnny Manziel wasn't Johnny Manziel. No, no. He needed to hide -- to be someone else, someone normal, for a change. Enjoying himself past 3 a.m. under the alias "Billy," according to Monday night's report from ESPN Las Vegas, Manziel disguised himself using a blond wig, glasses, a hoodie and a "fake" mustache throughout his time on the strip. (Shameless enterprising sports fans have already taken advantage of Manziel's bizarre look.)
USA Today's Scott Boeck broke the news of Manziel's arrival in Las Vegas early Saturday night, but with an evening of fun already planned, Manziel attempted to indirectly refute Boeck's claim with an Instagram response: He geo-tagged (a feature he's never used before on Instagram) himself at home in Ohio with his dog, duh. Of course that's where Manziel is!
By Sunday morning, however, the credibility of Manziel's adorable puppy post was shot.
Sunday Morning, Jan. 3: BUSTED!
Speaking to reporters that morning, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam essentially declared that Manziel was playing hooky, admitting that he didn't know where his quarterback was. Manziel was supposed to show up at the Browns' practice facility for a concussion treatment that morning, but was MIA. Gareth Kirk, one of Manziel's close friends, even told ESPN that he had no idea where Manziel was on Saturday night.
Tuesday, Jan. 5: Manziel Becomes A Modern Waldo
Following Monday night's report of Manziel's "Super Trooper"-like Las Vegas costume, one overly enterprising Cleveland news station stalked around Manziel's home in Avon, Ohio. Thus, WEWS, an ABC affiliate, began its cringeworthy "Manziel Watch."
When reporter Megan Hickey knocked on Manziel's front door (not a bad place to start the search), an apparent friend of Manziel's answered and refused to comment before indicating that Manziel was at home, but too busy on the phone to talk.
Wednesday Morning, Jan. 6: The Media's Stakeout
Determined to snag a glimpse of Manziel, the television station's "Manziel Watch" continued into Day 2. This time, reporter Kristin Volk was assigned to stalk Manziel's whereabouts. Like Hickey, Volk approached Manziel's front door after hearing "guys' voices," but was shocked to hear silence upon her knocks. No one opened the door for Volk, and she resigned herself to a four-hour stakeout of the home.
No Manziel, no scoop.
Wednesday Night, Jan. 6: FOUND WITH MUSTACHE
As WEWS scrapped together footage to produce another "Manziel Watch" segment, Manziel stepped out into plain sight. Well, that is, if you frequent pool halls at Dave & Busters locations in Ohio.
Manziel remains radio silent, but after a whirlwind week of rumored partying and hiding behind closed doors and disguises, it's no surprise to see Manziel's Browns teammates posing concerning questions about their quarterback's lifestyle.
Veteran offensive tackle Joe Thomas said to ESPN on Sunday, "I just want to know the Cleveland Browns are the most important thing in [Manziel's] life" -- a sentence that reads in equal halves question and intimation.
In Manziel's mind right now, the truth is probably somewhere in between. But man, that's a wicked mustache.
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