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AFC North Notebook: Manziel's latest bout with trouble

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel is shown on the sideline in the third quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel is shown on the sideline in the third quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. (Jason Getz / USA Today Sports)

The temptations of the nightlife and trouble are two things Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel has found more difficult to sidestep than a blitzing linebacker.

The latest headlines involving the hard-partying former Heisman Trophy winner had a Cleveland dateline this time instead of Las Vegas or Texas.

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Manziel's roommate-bodyguard Dana Kirk allegedly hit a fan whom "Johnny Football" said was intoxicated and aggressively approached him last weekend in downtown Cleveland.

The Browns issued a statement saying they were concerned about the late hour of the incident.

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A week later, Kirk was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Manziel's car. Manziel wasn't in the car at the time and the vehicle was impounded, according to multiple reports.

The incident involving his friend came one day after Manziel defended his behavior and blamed the fan, Chris Gonos, for approaching him in the lobby of his building, "putting his hands on me and kind of toying with me."

Gonos told police he was assaulted by Manziel and his entourage at 2:36 a.m. Manziel wasn't charged with a crime. He declined to answer questions about whether he was punched or threw a punch.

"It was a very unfortunate situation, a situation that was tried to be averted at all costs, and one that was unfortunately not able to really get away from," Manziel told Cleveland reporters. "I let the Browns know what really happened and wanted them to be on top of it from the very get-go. I'm very thankful for the Browns having my back in all this and at the same time supporting me on a situation that seemed to be a little blown out of proportion.

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"I'm not going to go into exact details of everything that happened. It was broken up really fast, and at the time it was more toward my roommate than it was toward me, the initial offering. After there had been some aggressiveness and hostility in the lobby, we didn't want to enter the elevator with this guy."

Manziel emphasized he has significantly curtailed his partying since being drafted by the Browns in May.

"One night I did get a chance to go out and stay out a little later, a decision I made on my own," Manziel said. "I felt at the time it was OK, and I know there are other guys in the league and other guys in this locker room that do the same thing and enjoy their time when they are out of the building. I know at night when I go to bed I need to make sure I'm ready and capable of going to work the next day and fulfilling my job and the duties I have the next day."

Manziel hasn't played in the past eight games.

"Are we disappointed?" coach Mike Pettine said of the incident. "I think we've already expressed that, but to me it doesn't affect his status."

Steelers try to keep pace

The Pittsburgh Steelers know they need to keep winning as they await two division games against the first-place Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers play the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Heinz Field.

"I absolutely think it's a must-win," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told Pittsburgh reporters. "We feel that this is a very important game and we have to put together a stretch of football like we never played before. This is must-win because if you get hot at the right time, that's when teams make runs and championships can be had.

"November and December football is always must-win games. I don't care if you are undefeated or what or have the division locked up."

Bengals not scoreboard watching

The Bengals (7-3-1) hold a slight edge in the AFC North division, owning a half-game lead over the Ravens, Browns and Steelers.

They're favored to keep winning against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9) on Sunday. To maintain their advantage, the Bengals are aware they can't afford to relax.

"I don't think we pay that much attention to it," Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth told Cincinnati reporters. "You watch if the people in your division win or lose each week, but I don't really know what any of their records are, if they're a game back or something. Honestly, if we can go into Tampa and take care of business, then the month of December will be exactly what we expected the month of December to be for us. A month that we have the opportunity to do what you want."

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