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Manziel's attorney suggests he could play absent NCAA approval

Since it was learned that Jim Darnell was representing Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel during an NCAA investigation, the Texas attorney has made more media rounds than an American Idol heart throb. But the predictable lawyer-speak -- "We don't know how long this will take", "We've found no evidence of Johnny taking money", etc. -- is about all he's really said with a microphone around.

Until Saturday.

Darnell told The Associated Press that there is a chance Manziel could play this season absent clearance from the NCAA.

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"I don't know if (the NCAA) will be done before the season. I believe the process should be far enough along that he'll be able to play," Darnell said.

The NCAA is investigating whether Manziel accepted money for autograph sessions with memorabilia dealers, which could jeopardize his eligibility. It is ultimately the NCAA's decision whether Manziel is eligible or not, but it's ultimately Texas A&M's decision whether or not to play him. The question facing TAMU, which is investigating the matter itself, is whether or not to play the Heisman Trophy winner if the NCAA investigation has not been concluded by the time the Aggies kickoff against Rice Aug. 31.

The risk is that if the Aggies play Manziel and he is later ruled ineligible by the NCAA, the result would likely be vacated victories and/or championships.

Darnell's suggestion that Manziel could play against Rice regardless of the NCAA's progress suggests that A&M may roll the NCAA dice. Then again, it's important to note that Darnell isn't representing Texas A&M -- the law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin and White is. And if the Aggies are faced with the decision of whether to play Manziel without NCAA clearance, Darnell's advice won't play a significant role, if any.

It's unclear how closely Darnell and TAMU's representation are working together, or whether Darnell is privy to the Lightfoot group's strategy. But it is noteworthy that when Lightfoot, Franklin and White steered Auburn through the NCAA's investigation of quarterback Cam Newton, the play was to keep Newton on the field.

And that decision paid off in spades.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread

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