BEREA, Ohio — Turns out, the Browns may have more to worry about than Jake Delhomme's two costly interceptions in their opener.
Making his regular-season debut for Cleveland, Delhomme injured his right ankle while throwing a pick late in the first half of Sunday's 17-14 loss at Tampa Bay. Coach Eric Mangini said Delhomme will undergo tests on the ankle, which appeared to bother the 35-year-old quarterback during the second half.
Browns president Mike Holmgren said Delhomme was “sore” Monday and that doctors intend to work on him in preparation for Sunday's home opener against Kansas City.
Mangini said he never considered bringing in backup Seneca Wallace after Delhomme got hurt.
“His ankle got a little twisted up, but he felt good enough to continue on it, and I felt good enough with him continuing on at that point,” Mangini said, offering no other specifics about Delhomme's injury or when he'll have the tests.
It's likely Delhomme will undergo an MRI, which will give doctors the most detailed look at his ankle.
With the Browns leading 14-3 and driving toward a possible score before halftime, Delhomme tried to sidearm a pass to tight end Benjamin Watson while being tackled. The errant pass was intercepted by Buccaneers defensive back Ronde Barber, who returned it 64 yards to the Cleveland 3.
Tampa Bay scored on the next play, trimming the Browns' lead to 14-10 and giving the Bucs momentum.
“That changed a lot of things,” Mangini said. “That was a big wing.”
Holmgren said Delhomme was hurt on the critical play.
Delhomme was not available to reporters during the 30 minutes that Cleveland's locker room was open to reporters on Monday. He attended team meetings, dressed and left.
The Browns signed the former Carolina QB as a free agent in March, hoping he could stabilize their perpetual quarterbacking problems. Delhomme was nearly flawless during the exhibition season, completing 79 percent of his passes and making good decisions during limited playing time in three games.
But on Sunday, Delhomme showed some of the bad habits that led to him throwing a career-high 18 interceptions with the Panthers, who waived him after last season.
Mangini refused to lay all the blame for the game-changing interception on Delhomme, saying it was a confluence of mistakes.
“He should have done a better job of throwing it away or eating it,” Mangini lamented. “That was one part of it. I don't think we were firm enough in the protection and he shouldn't have been pressured the way he was, but that wasn't a function of a blitz or anything like that.”
Mangini said another problem was that when Delhomme looked to dump the ball over the middle, two receivers were in the same area.
“That's how it's going to work with a lot of interceptions,” Mangini said. “Yes, Jake should have made a better decision. He knows it and I'll expect that in the future, but there were other components in that play that contributed just as much as that decision.”
Delhomme, the 14th different quarterback to start a game for the Browns since 1999, accepted responsibility for the first-half interception — a throw he wanted back as soon as he released it.
“I'm the one with the ball in my hands and I've got to be smarter than that,” he said. “Certainly that was a 10-point swing right there.”
Before committing the two turnovers, Delhomme had given the Browns everything they've asked since he joined them. He was elected a team captain last week by his new teammates, who have been impressed with his leadership, enthusiasm, selflessness and work ethic.
But it's his performances on Sundays that will count most.
“I still believe in him,” center Alex Mack said. “He's a great guy and a great quarterback. I know he will do everything he needs to do to improve.”
Mack said he didn't notice Delhomme struggling on the tender ankle after halftime.
Last week, Mangini joked that with Delhomme around he wasn't having to talk about quarterbacking issues following a season in which both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson took turns winning and losing the starting job. One week into a new season, though, and his starting QB is a hot topic.
However, Mangini remains confident Delhomme will rebound from his rough opener.
“Because he's smart, he cares, he understands where the mistakes were,” Mangini said. “I can tell you with those interceptions, I know it always goes back to the quarterback, but it's a group effort.”