Browns QB McCoy practices with starters

Colt McCoy strutted into the locker room wearing camouflaged hunting bibs, the ever-present Texas baseball cap and a laminated wristband containing Cleveland's offensive plays.

As the rookie strode passed Jake Delhomme, his close friend and the man whose job he may soon take, McCoy had a confident look.

The look of a starting quarterback.

McCoy took some snaps with Cleveland's starting offense at practice Wednesday, increasing the possibility he will return from an ankle injury and start Sunday in Cincinnati (2-11). McCoy hasn't played since getting hurt on Nov. 21 at Jacksonville — his fifth straight start.

McCoy, who returned to practice last Friday and was Cleveland's No. 3 QB on Sunday in Buffalo, moved without any difficulty as he went through drills during the portion of practice open to reporters. McCoy, Delhomme and Seneca Wallace spent some time outdoors throwing passes for the Browns (5-8) as a light snow fell on the practice field.

Browns coach Eric Mangini will wait to see how McCoy's ankle responds and then give "a definitive answer" about his starter on Thursday.

"I thought he did really well on Friday in terms of moving around and things like that," Mangini said. "I don't expect there to be much limitation, but I want to see it and go from there."

McCoy did not speak to the media, but his body language and lack of any limp showed he's ready to go. For Delhomme, that could mean he's about to be demoted to a backup, or even a backup backup role.

Delhomme, who threw for just 86 yards in last week's 13-6 loss to the Bills, understands that the season he hoped to resurrect his could be over. But the 35-year-old Delhomme, a consummate teammate, said he won't complain if he gets benched.

"Colt did some good things when he was healthy," Delhomme said. "I have to worry about what I can control, that's really how you have to look at it. I'm going to control what I can and whatever happens from that point on, you don't rock the boat, you keep your mouth shut, you go to work and you do it.

"That's how I was brought up, that's how I was raised and in the National Football League too, that's just the way it goes."

There's also a chance Delhomme could drop all the way to Cleveland's third quarterback. The Browns have a few packages they like to run with Wallace, who is far more mobile. If the Browns' game plan this week includes Wallace, then Delhomme will have to sit unless there's another injury.

"If you're going to be the two or the three, there's only one guy playing," Delhomme said. "That's kind of how you have to look at it. That's something that I think goes through my mind and things like that, but then again if I let that bother me, then I'm taking away from my preparation that I need to do for a game."

McCoy wasn't expected to play at all this season, but he quickly rose up the depth chart after both Delhomme and Wallace suffered high ankle sprains. McCoy went 2-3 in his five starts and showed remarkable poise in what became an unexpected, early audition to become Cleveland's future quarterback.

The Browns would like to see him play in a cold-weather game, and with just three left, they're quickly running out of time. Mangini expects McCoy to pick up where he left off and believes the Browns will be able to use their complete playbook despite him missing time.

"What I've seen throughout the course of the season with him, and this is really what you look for from young guys, is he's able to put a lot of things in the bank and then build on it," Mangini said. "Obviously, playing the games that he did was tremendous to do that, but he's very diligent with his preparation and his routine. His approach to it has been real sound, especially for a first-year guy."