April misdirection started early with Manziel

Mike Zimmer (USA TODAY)

Mike Zimmer says Johnny Manziel would come with "flags" about the celebrity lifestyle surrounding him. But it's predraft season, when lies are told regularly and teams are calling for a lot of misdirection plays.

Let the games begin.

One of two things is going on at Winter Park right now, following the buzz-worthy concerns raised by the Vikings about drafting Johnny Manziel. Either Mike Zimmer is either being told, "Ease up on the extemporaneous comments" or he's being told, "Well played, Sir."

At a time when there are questions as to whether Manziel will even be available when the Vikings are scheduled to pick at No. 8, it would be appear the Vikings are tapping the brakes on any potential relationship.

But is Zimmer just proving to the Vikings front office that he knows how to "play the game in April."

April Fool's Day is typically marked by pranks of a juvenile and potentially hurtful nature that typically ends with one person ticked off and the other pointing and laughing – a derisive, cackling laugh (see Nelson Muntz). It's a semi-sadistic ritual that is embraced by the NFL.

When the football year hits April, it turns into the World Series of Poker. Sunglasses come on. Expressions leave faces. You have to step through the looking glass to decipher what is truth, what is lies and what is coded messages.

At face value, it would seem that Zimmer – a defensive-minded coach – is putting the kibosh on the idea of drafting Johnny Football. If he had said that in February or pre-Lent March, it could have been taken as a legitimate criticism of the philosophical difference between an entitled college football player and an NFL organization.

But this is April.

Nothing said publicly – much less sound bytes with fully available international audio – should currently be taken as truth.

Therein lies the dilemma.

The scripted reality show that is the NFL his its sweeps period in April. Interest is expressed. Interest is denied. Don't believe what you hear. It's all part of the smoke-and-mirrors show.

Were Zimmer's comments about "flags" with Manziel based on the obvious Johnny Football circus that will accompany him to wherever his private plane lands?

Were the Vikings simply muddying the water for teams looking to make a draft day love connection with Atlanta or Tampa Bay?

The more "Tebow stink" the Vikings can put on Manziel plays into the perception they are not interested. If the team legitimately has no interest, such a traction-gaining story can give teams behind the Vikings reason to believe Manziel will still be available.

The problem is that this isn't Zimmer's first rodeo. It definitely isn't Rick Spielman's first rodeo, especially when it comes to drafting a quarterback with ties to Texas.

From the "it is what it is" perspective, it sounds like the Vikings have guarded interest at best in bringing Johnny Football to Minnesota.

But this is April in the NFL.

White is black. Black is white.

In the latest Viking Update mock draft we have the Vikings drafting Manziel. Zimmer solidified the opinion.

It's April. All the Vikings are telling the rest of the NFL is take Manziel at your own peril – with the first seven picks of the draft. After that, anything could happen … and might.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

VikingUpdate.com Recommended Stories