BEREA, Ohio - Wearing a white Texas baseball cap backwards and a laminated wristband full of offensive plays, Browns quarterback Colt McCoy was engulfed by a huge wave of cameras and reporters in the middle of Cleveland's locker room.
McCoy strained to hear a question over the teasing screams of his teammates, who gave him the typical rough rookie treatment.
"Golly," McCoy said, shaking his head and smiling.
Yep, it's hard to believe. But sooner than he or anyone expected, McCoy has become an NFL starter.
With quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace still slowed by severe ankle injuries, Browns coach Eric Mangini said Wednesday that he is "leaning" toward McCoy making his pro debut this Sunday in Pittsburgh against the rival Steelers.
As far as McCoy's concerned, the leaning is over. Mangini has fallen his way.
"I'm excited about it," McCoy said. "You can tell my teammates, they're all joshing with me and giving me a hard time. I'm really excited. Back in the huddle, back calling plays."
McCoy's quick ascent from third-stringer to starter by Week 6 is not what the Browns envisioned for the third-round draft pick.
The plan was to have McCoy, whose 45 wins with the Longhorns are the most by any quarterback in NCAA history, spend the season watching and learning behind Delhomme and Wallace. He was supposed to soak up whatever knowledge and advice he could from team president and resident QB guru, Mike Holmgren.
"This wasn't the scenario that the coaches wanted," McCoy said. "Jake and Seneca, they're outstanding. I've learned so much from them. I've been in the locker room with them and in the meetings with them. I've taken the same notes they have all year long. I've prepared like I was the starter every week, and that's not going to change."
But instead of running the scout team during practice this week or charting plays on a clipboard Sunday, McCoy will be under center.
In Pittsburgh. Against the Steelers. Three Rivers. Terrible Towels. Mayhem.
"It's definitely going to be a test for him," Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. "We do play a good defense. Especially coming into a first game, that's got to be tough for a rookie."
McCoy knows what he's getting into.
He's well versed on the Steelers, who like to pressure quarterbacks of all shapes and sizes with blitzes from every angle. McCoy's been brushing up on them by studying in the film room, but he's already a bit of a buff on the black and gold's vaunted attack.
"I've watched them play for a long time," the 24-year-old said. "They've won Super Bowls. They've got tremendous players - Harrison, Polamalu, Woodley. They're all good. Casey Hampton went to UT, so I know him. I have all the respect in the world for those guys. We know what challenge we have ahead of us."
McCoy struggled during much of training camp and the exhibition season as he adjusted to the warp-speed tempo of the pro game. He certainly didn't look like Cleveland's quarterback of the future, but a 13-for-13 performance in the Browns' final preseason game against Chicago boosted his confidence.
Mangini believes McCoy can manage Cleveland's offense, against Pittsburgh or anyone else. He won't limit the Browns' play selection just because he's starting a rookie QB.
"Everybody's got to get their feet wet at some point," Mangini said.
BEREA, Ohio - Jerome Harrison was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for Mike Bell in an exchange of running backs.
The Eagles announced the deal, issuing a press release. The Browns would only confirm the trade, with a spokesman saying it was contingent on both players passing physicals.41.36507 -81.85258 ERROR: Template storyimage.ldo not found in theme default for section Pro!
Wearing a white Texas baseball cap backwards and a laminated wristband full of offensive plays, Browns quarterback Colt McCoy was engulfed by a huge wave of cameras and reporters in the middle of Cleveland's locker room.