BEREA - It appears the Browns will start all over again at quarterback when they host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Colt McCoy has been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and probably won't be healthy enough to play. Coach Eric Mangini said the sprain isn't as bad as similar injuries suffered by Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, while not ruling out the chance that McCoy might be able to play.
In all likelihood, Delhomme, who was the starter against Tampa Bay in the season opener, will get the call ahead of Wallace. Mangini is more comfortable with Delhomme, who played for the Panthers the previous seven seasons.
"Jake will get the bulk of the reps, and that's the way I'm leaning right now," Mangini said. "His familiarity with Carolina is a real plus. I have faith in Seneca as well. Both of those guys I'm comfortable playing."
Delhomme sprained his right ankle against Tampa Bay. Wallace sprained his right ankle four weeks later, which paved the way for McCoy, who was hurt while being sacked last Sunday against Jacksonville.
Considering the length of time it took Delhomme and Wallace to return to full health, McCoy could be sidelined the rest of the season. Mangini doesn't think that will be the case.
"I'm optimistic it will be quicker than (five weeks)," Mangini said. "I'm optimistic this week, but we've been through quite a few of them here recently, so I'll temper all my optimism."
This is a setback for McCoy and the organization. He played well enough in five starts to have earned the right to start when Delhomme and Wallace were healthy. It would have been important for him to start the final six games to get a better gauge on his future and to decide if a quarterback needs to be targeted in the 2011 draft.
Delhomme was signed for two seasons as a stop-gap measure until the quarterback of the future is found. Wallace was viewed as a backup when he was acquired in a trade with Seattle.Delhomme went out of his way to praise McCoy before Wednesday's practice.
"I'm not just saying it to be saying it," Delhomme said. "I think the young kid is playing outstanding. You saw him battle through a game last week.
"I think he's earned the respect of everyone in here, but more so because he was obviously hurting a good bit. He stuck it out and did a great job on the second-to-last drive, and even to give us a chance on that last drive, also."
Although Delhomme played - and re-injured his ankle - in relief of Wallace at home against Atlanta, this will be his first chance to show the home fans that he still has some game left at age 35.
"It was so fun in the offseason and preseason being out there, and even in the Tampa game having a lot of fun," Delhomme said. "Then you have to deal with something. If I go out there on Sunday I'm looking forward to just playing and doing whatever this team needs to help us win.
"We've had two tough losses in a row. Certainly we had a couple of weeks when it was very fun. We're looking for any kind of a way to bounce back and get a win."
Delhomme, who led the Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance in the 2003 season, isn't thinking revenge for having been allowed to test the free-agent waters by Carolina.
"When I left New Orleans to play for Carolina in 2003, I couldn't wait to play that first game against New Orleans," he said. "The reason was because I wasn't given a chance to play down there (in New Orleans). This is totally different. I had a good run down there (Carolina)."