BEREA, Ohio - Derek Anderson stood in the middle of the media huddle in Cleveland's locker room and then stepped aside for Brady Quinn.
Perhaps for good.
The mystery surrounding Browns coach Eric Mangini's choice as his starting quarterback became somewhat clearer yesterday when Quinn and Anderson were forced to answer questions about their recently completed competition.
Anderson was asked if it would be difficult to keep the starting QB a secret until Sunday's kickoff of the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings.
"No," Anderson said, "because after this next two minutes are over I'm not going to be talking to you guys. It's pretty easy. Obviously, the rest of us have to go about our regular preparations and continue to do what we always do and just not talk to our families."
By "the rest of us" Anderson seemed to mean the Browns backups, a group it looks as if he belongs to once again.
Mangini met with his quarterbacks on Tuesday night, told them who would start and explained the reasons for his decision. He said both handled the situation with class.
"They both took it exactly the way I expected them to take it - as pros, as good teammates," Mangini said. "It was really not surprising."
Quinn has been favored all along to win the starting job, and although it now appears to be his, the former first-round pick is playing along with Mangini's wishes to guard his secret and keep the Vikings guessing.
Quinn confirmed that he and Anderson met with Mangini, but said they weren't told who would take the season's first snaps from center.
"He talked to us about it, but he hasn't told us anything about a final decision for us," Quinn said.
Those seem to be carefully chosen words since Mangini said he told his quarterbacks which one would open up against Brett Favre and the Vikings.
Mangini said he did feel the need to make an announcement to Cleveland's other players.
"I think they'll be able to figure it out," he said.
It seems everyone is figuring it out.
By the time the Browns finished practice, word was beginning to leak that Quinn, who made three starts last season, was the winner.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, citing an anonymous league source, reported Quinn will start the opener.
Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield shrugged off Mangini's cloak and dagger routine.
"It doesn't make a difference to me," he said. "I'm going to go home and watch film on Quinn and Anderson. It might just take me an extra half-hour at home to watch what they like to do"
In the past, quarterback controversies have divided teams. The Browns, who collapsed under huge expectations last season, are hoping to remain united as long as possible.
"We've got to stay together," running back Jamal Lewis said. "We can't really worry about that or concentrate on that. We have to concentrate on what we have to do and our job and what we're trying to accomplish no matter who's in there."
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