JAKE Delhomme looked more like a wounded soldier in a Civil War movie than he did a football player during practice Thursday.
The Browns quarterback, who sprained his right ankle Sept. 12, had a detectable limp while walking through the locker room. He continued to limp during the part of practice reporters are allowed to watch. Unless Delhomme's ankle makes a rapid progression, it's unlikely he'll play Sunday at home against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"It's coming," Delhomme said of the injury he suffered against Tampa Bay. "I've been following the plan with the training room and testing with them because it's uncommon for me having an ankle injury. It's better this week than last week."
Coach Eric Mangini said that Delhomme would be limited in practice. He added that there's no way he wouldn't start Delhomme if the quarterback is healthy.
Since that's not the case, Seneca Wallace should get a third consecutive start. Wallace hasn't stood out by any means, nor has he been embarrassing.
"It's like anything. It's going to come," Wallace said. "You're not just going to hop in there and all of a sudden it's just clicking for you. As you get the weeks down, you're dealing with all different things, and you're dealing with practice.
"Things get better. You start to understand exactly what we're trying to strive for as far as the offensive coordinator and what the head coach is looking for on things. As things get better and as the week goes on, you get better at it."
The only conceivable reason that Delhomme hasn't been ruled out for Sunday is to keep the Bengals guessing. Since high ankle sprains usually take at least four weeks to heal, it's doubtful that Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is spending much time preparing for Delhomme.
"You're going to defend the offense," Lewis said. "The offense has some very good weapons. They have a fine tight end (Benjamin Watson). They have two strong runners (Peyton Hillis and Jerome Harrison) that have been productive. They're blocking well up front. This is a well put together team. The only thing they haven't done is win football games."
The problem for the offense is that Delhomme and Wallace are both in their first year in coordinator Brian Daboll's system. Delhomme is losing valuable time, and Wallace is still making the transition from the style he was familiar with in Seattle.
"We've been working hard at it all offseason," Wallace said. "It's really different from what I'm used to. Once we get it down, it can be very productive and a good system to be in. We'll continue to build rapport with the receivers, and it will get better."
Delhomme didn't think the injury was as bad as it's become when it happened late in the second quarter against Tampa Bay. He played the rest of the game with a noticeable limp.
Since then Delhomme has spent a considerable amount of time in a walking boot. That won't change until he's full recovered.
"I will be in a boot after today's practice, good or bad," Delhomme said. "That helps in kind of keeping the ankle mobilized for healing. I've seen DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart live in boots all week long during the course of the season."
The quarterback situation is the same as it's been for the last 11 seasons. There's a crying need for stability, but there's no solution in sight.
Meanwhile, the losses continue to mount.
"We're going into week four," Delhomme said. "It's still very early. Strange things happen in this league. You have to take them one week at a time and try to build on that."
INJURY UPDATE: Defensive linemen Kenyon Coleman (knee), Shaun Rogers (ankle-hip) and Robaire Smith (back) missed practice Thursday. Also out were defensive back Derrick Roberson (hip) and linebacker Jason Trusnik (head).
OPEN-DOOR POLICY: Mangini responded to running back Jerome Harrison's statement that he doesn't have a role on offense.
"With any player that has any questions, my office hasn't changed," Mangini said. "I'm here every day to clarify things quickly. If there's any uncertainty, it's pretty easy to clear up."