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Published: Thursday, 3/18/2010

Delhomme wants to be Browns' starter

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEREA, Ohio - Quarterback Jake Delhomme completed his visit to Cleveland last week and drove to the airport for a flight to New Orleans.

He never made it.

Travel delays forced Delhomme to return to Charlotte, where he chose to sign with the Browns without visiting his hometown Saints. The chance to start was more important than being a backup in his home state.

"I had to decide if I wanted to still try to compete or if I wanted to hold a clipboard," Delhomme said yesterday. "I just wasn't ready for that."

Delhomme, who grew up in Breaux Bridge, La., and spent his first five years with the Saints, would have been a backup to Drew Brees with the Super Bowl champions. In Cleveland, he is the favorite to win the starting job after team president Mike Holmgren and the Browns parted ways with Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn.

Delhomme's main competition will be Seneca Wallace, whom the Browns acquired in a trade with Seattle.

Delhomme, 35, struggled through his worst season last year with the Carolina Panthers, throwing eight touchdowns and 18 interceptions. His season ended with a broken finger after 11 games, and he was released earlier this month.

He also acknowledges the five-interception performance in a playoff loss to Arizona during the 2008 season carried over to the start of last year, when he threw four interceptions in the opener.

"I didn't play good football," he said. "I'm not going to blame anybody else for anything. The 2009 year football-wise wasn't fun. From January 10th, the playoff game, through when I broke my finger. I don't think there's any doubt I tried to do too much, and it didn't work, obviously."

Delhomme, who cried at his final press conference in Carolina, took a few days to get over the sting of being released. There were only two teams he wanted to visit - the Browns and Saints.

Cleveland went 5-11 last year but won its final four games after a tough start. Delhomme was impressed by the resolve the players showed in fighting back to salvage the season and compared it to his situation in Carolina.

The Panthers went 7-9 in 2002 but won four of their last five games. Delhomme signed with Carolina following that season and led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003.

"You find a lot of teams that start 1-11, those bags are packed in December. Guys are ready to get out," he said. "This team won the last four games. I'm telling you, that's something. Something was happening. Something was going in the right direction."

Holmgren earned the reputation as a quarterbacks guru after helping Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck develop into Pro Bowlers. Now he has a recovery project in Delhomme.

"He had a really fine career and a really bad last year," Holmgren said. "So did I. I had a pretty good career as a coach and then I had a really bad last year. If there are physical reasons why [Delhomme struggled], you probably don't do it. You can't overcome those. I think we have a fine coach, a fine staff, and I have every confidence they are going to make it work. I really have a lot of confidence in this guy."

CARDINALS/ANDERSON: Derek Anderson agreed to a two-year deal with Arizona, starting as the backup quarterback to Matt Leinart.

Anderson spent five up-and-down seasons with the Browns, where he lost his starting job to Brady Quinn at the start of last season. He got the job back, lost it, then got it back again when Quinn got hurt.

The 6-foot-6 former Oregon State quarterback had been claimed off waivers by Cleveland from Baltimore in 2005. He made the Pro Bowl in 2007 when he threw for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns, leading the Browns to a 10-6 record.

Anderson also visited Seattle.

Leinart lost the starting job to Kurt Warner in the 2008 training camp. Warner, of course, went on to lead the Cardinals on an improbable run to the Super Bowl that season, then directed the team to a second straight NFC West crown and the second round of the playoffs last year.

REDSKINS/GROSSMAN: Free-agent quarterback Rex Grossman signed a one-year contract with Washington.

Grossman spent last season with the Houston Texans, where he worked with new Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan held the same position with the Texans and now will be an assistant to his father, new Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.

Before signing with Houston, the 29-year-old Grossman played the previous six seasons with the Chicago Bears, leading them to the Super Bowl after the 2006 season.

He has played in 37 NFL games, including 31 starts. He has completed 524 of 971 passes (54 percent) for 6,197 yards, with 33 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.

OWNERS/RULE CHANGE: owners will vote next week whether to allow each team a possession in overtime in the playoffs if the team winning the OT coin toss kicks a field goal on the first series.

Previously, the game would end whenever either side scores, as happened in the NFC championship game in January, with New Orleans beating Minnesota on Garrett Hartley's kick. But NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay says a trend has developed showing too strong an advantage for teams winning the coin toss to start overtime.

If the team that falls behind by three points on the first series also kicks a field goal, then the game would continue under current sudden death rules.

The proposal is only for the postseason.

The competition committee found that since 1994, when the kickoff was moved back five yards to the 30, teams winning the OT coin toss won 34.4 percent of the games on the first series. They kicked field goals 26.2 percent of those times, an increase from 17.9 percent in 15 years.

Rest assured there will be plenty of discussion; 24 votes are needed to adopt the change. The players union supports the current overtime setup because it fears another system could lead to more injuries.



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