CFL

Manziel rejoins Alouettes teammates at practice after 2-game absence

Johnny Manziel was back at Montreal Alouettes practice on Monday but Antonio Pipkin took the first reps with the starters. Manziel missed two games while under concussion protocol and two practices last week.

QB shares reps almost equally with Antonio Pipkin ahead of Friday's game in Ottawa

Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel returned to practice Monday and shared reps almost equally with Antonio Pipkin after missing two games and two practices while under concussion protocol. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press/File)

If having both Johnny Manziel and Antonio Pipkin amounts to a quarterback controversy, coach Mike Sherman doesn't seem to mind.

After a disastrous start that saw three quarterbacks go down with injuries, the first-year coach is happy to have two other pivots who have shown they can move the ball.

For now, with Manziel dealing with concussion protocol, it appears that Pipkin will get a third straight start when the Alouettes (2-8) visit the Redblacks (6-3) in Ottawa on Friday night.

But with Manziel approaching full health, a decision looms when the team returns from their bye week after the Ottawa game.

"We feel fortunate that we have a couple that can really contribute to us winning, so I don't see any quarterback controversy," Sherman said Monday. "We're fortunate because when we started this thing we didn't know who our quarterback was and this second half of the season things kind of fell our way a bit and it puts us in a much better position than when we started."

After Drew Willy and Jeff Mathews were injured, the Alouettes sent two veterans and a pair of first-round draft picks to the Tiger-Cats for Manziel, who had been in Hamilton since the start of camp but who had yet to play in the CFL.

Pipkin forcing tough decision

A team that gave up that much for a high-profile quarterback, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, will likely want to use him. Manziel was seen as the end to the club's five-year search for a bona fide starting quarterback. But Pipkin looks to be making it a tough decision.

When a third starter, Vernon Adams, was also injured, Manziel was thrown into action after only a handful of practices with his new team. He struggled in his debut and looked much better in his second game against Ottawa, but took a bad hit to the head in the third quarter. Although he finished the game, he missed the next two games under concussion protocol.

Pipkin, who had been released in June and called back on Aug. 8, then gave Montreal perhaps its two best quarterback starts of the season, including the team's first home win in more than year on Friday night against Toronto. The athletic 23-year-old passed for 303 yards in the 25-22 win that snapped a six-game losing run.

"He made some big throws. He had good game management. I was proud of him," said Sherman.

Manziel missed both practices last week but was on the field for a team walk-through on Thursday. He was back to full practice on Monday, taking second reps with the first team behind Pipkin, who ran 31 plays to Manziel's 19.

That would indicate that Pipkin will start, but Sherman said he will evaluate Manziel over two days to see if he can even be considered to play. At least he should dress in Ottawa because the club released third-stringer Austin Apodaca. Manziel did not speak to the media.

Renewed confidence

Pipkin certainly earned another start, but will wait to see what Sherman decides.

"I'll just play and practice as hard as I can for my teammates," said Pipkin. "That's kind of out of my control but I'll be ready and I'll just give these guys everything I can."

He should have renewed confidence after the victory.

"It just changes the energy in the whole locker room," he said. "We know we've got a monkey off our back and it just sets us up to take the next step in understanding that winning is a process and losing is a process, but now you know the difference in preparation."

They'll do it with a third-string running back, however. After Tyrell Sutton went down two games ago, his replacement William Stanback injured a hamstring against Toronto. Ryder Stone got most of the work in practice, with Lawrence Pittman also seeing touches. Sherman said Sutton and Stanback may be back after the bye week.

Also, veteran kick returner and running back Stefan Logan has returned from the six-game injured list after an ankle problem and will likely see at least some action in both jobs.

The Alouettes also inked defensive lineman Gabriel Knapton, who was cut by the B.C. Lions last week. The Alouettes traded Knapton to B.C. in December for receiver Chris Williams, who was sent to Hamilton in the Manziel deal.

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