April 24, 2014

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No place like home for Browns’ Delhomme

CLEVELAND – Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme has taken part in more preseason games than he cares to remember.

Tonight, though, stands out as one of the biggest exhibition games in his 12-year NFL career. Cleveland makes its season home debut against the St. Louis Rams at 7:30 p.m.

“Absolutely. It will be fun to be at home,” Delhomme said. “We had the scrimmage (at Cleveland Browns Stadium two weeks ago) and that was nice, but this live game under the lights, it’ll be good.

“It is preseason, but so what? It doesn’t matter what you play, you want to win. Hopefully, we can take another step as a team.”

Delhomme spent the last seven seasons with the Carolina Panthers, but was released after a disastrous final year. He was only on the market for a week before the Browns signed him to a two-year contract.

Though the 35-year-old has been in Cleveland since mid-March, this evening marks the first time he will play for the home team in front of the Dawg Pound.

Adding to Delhomme’s – and the fans’ – anticipation, the Browns won their preseason opener at Green Bay 27-24 in thrilling fashion last week.

“I think when you are new to a place, anytime you suit up for the first time, there are always going to be butterflies,” said Delhomme, who is being paid $7 million by Cleveland and $12.5 million by Carolina this season. “The day I don’t get that, it’s time to hang it up.

“If this was last year, I’d probably be putting on a good face, but deep down inside I would still be trying to be perfect. I really tried to take the world on my shoulders, and that didn’t do anybody on the team any good.”

Delhomme looked anything but washed up against the Packers’ top defense, completing 6 of 7 passes for 66 yards. Ironically, he was so efficient in marching down the field for a touchdown, he cost himself a number of snaps that coach Eric Mangini had allotted for him on the opening drive.

Mangini said the Browns’ first-stringers would play the entire first half against the Rams, but indicated that Delhomme would see less action in order to give backup Seneca Wallace some meaningful work.

“I keep saying it over and over, but everything here has been fresh, it’s been fun,” he said. “That’s what makes it so enjoyable for me. I’m really looking forward to starting the season.”

While Delhomme is the star attraction locally, St. Louis rookie quarterback Sam Bradford will be the major talking point around the country.

Bradford – the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft and the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner – is listed behind A.J. Feeley on the Rams’ depth chart, but it’s only a matter of time before he supplants the career journeyman.

“Bradford is a good player, he did some impressive things in college (at Oklahoma), and I imagine he’ll have a very impressive professional career,” Mangini said. “But I want it to start next weekend, not this weekend.”

In his unofficial pro debut against Minnesota, Bradford went 6-of-13 for 57 yards and a 58.8 passer rating. He was sacked four times.

The Vikings easily won that game 28-7, while St. Louis failed to score an offensive touchdown, which explains why Cleveland’s rookie defensive backs aren’t shaking in their boots about facing Bradford.

“He’s still a rookie in the NFL. It’s not like he’s going to be Brett Favre out there,” said cornerback Joe Haden, who was picked seventh in the first round.

“We’re not looking forward to facing him any more than we are anyone else,” added safety T.J. Ward, the 38th overall selection.

“As a defense, we want to hold every team to no points, if possible. We played pretty good last week, but we know we can play a lot better in the future.”

The camp count

Browns officials report that 38,929 fans attended their 18 public training camp practices this summer, an average of 2,163 per session – up from 1,560 in 2009.

It marks the second-best average since Cleveland began tracking turnstile counts five years ago. The record of 2,235 was set in Romeo Crennel’s final season as coach in 2008.

The Browns also recorded their two biggest single-session crowds ever in Berea with 3,673 (July 31, morning) and 3,630 (Aug. 1) fans on hand. Their previous high was 3,605 set on August 3, 2008.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

TONIGHT

• WHO: Browns vs. Rams
• WHAT: Preseason home opener
• WHERE: Cleveland Browns Stadium
• WHEN: 7:30
• TV/RADIO: Channel 3; WMMS 100.7-FM
• PRESEASON RECORDS: Browns 1-0, Rams 0-1

BROWNS UPDATE

K Phil Dawson won the preseason opener vs. Green Bay with a 46-yard field goal as time expired. He tied it with a 58-yarder with 1:27 left.

• QB Jake Delhomme played one series, going 6-for-7 for 66 yards and leading a touchdown drive.

• Backup QB Seneca Wallace went 4-for-8 for 72 yards and two TDs.

• LB Marcus Benard led the team with eight tackles and had a sack.

• TE Alex Smith, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, RB Peyton Hillis and WR Brian Robiskie each had three catches. Robiskie had a touchdown.

• The Browns haven’t played the Rams in the preseason since 1993.

RAMS UPDATE

• The Rams went 1-15 last year in coach Steve Spagnuolo’s first season.

• They lost 28-7 to the Vikings last week, with the only score on a punt return. They were outgained 414-150 yards.

• RB Steven Jackson led the team with 1,416 rushing yards and 51 catches in 2009.

• QB Sam Bradford was the first pick in the draft and signed a contract with $50 million guaranteed. He was 6-for-13 for 57 yards and four sacks last week.

• The Rams were founded in Cleveland in 1937 and played eight seasons before moving.

• DT Chris Hovan grew up in North Olmsted and played at St. Ignatius High School.

• Hank Fraley, who played the last four years for the Browns, is the starting right guard.

- Scott Petrak