“He seemed really comfortable behind center and he seemed really comfortable in that role,” coach Eric Mangini said Thursday before practice. “I thought for his first opportunity to be in that position he operated the offense well.”
The half-hour of practice open to the media Thursday wasn’t crisp, with a number of passes falling incomplete. The balls were wet from the rain and there appeared to be some confusion on the pass routes.
McCoy rallied to draw a couple of compliments from coordinator Brian Daboll, and practice must’ve finished OK, because ESPN.com reported McCoy will “definitely” start Sunday in Pittsburgh, citing a source.
On Wednesday, Mangini said he was “leaning” in that direction. He went a step further Thursday morning.
“I’d say that the lean is more pronounced today,” Mangini said. “I was really happy with what he did (Wednesday).”
After Wednesday’s practice, McCoy was called on to “break the team down” — the full-squad end-of-practice huddle.
“It was the first time he has done that, but that’s probably what he was used to doing for years and years being in that role and he just fell back into that role,” Mangini said.
Offensive lineman Shawn Lauvao was drafted seven picks behind McCoy in the third round and gave him a thumbs-up on his post-practice speech.
“But he needs to put more base in his voice,” he joked. “He was already a hard worker.
“He took control of the huddle. He has the can-do mentality. He knows what it takes.”
ESPN.com also reported that if McCoy plays 35 percent of the snaps as a rookie, his fourth-year salary goes from approximately $500,000 to $1.15 million. The deal is worth a maximum of $5 million.
McCoy would need to play about 5.6 games to reach 35 percent.
WALLACE IN BOOT
McCoy is in line to start because of ankle injuries to veterans Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. Delhomme hasn’t been in the locker room or on the field since the game Sunday against the Falcons. Wallace stopped by the locker room Thursday wearing a walking boot on his right leg. Neither has practiced this week.
Wallace said he wears the boot unless he’s in bed. He’s never had a high ankle sprain before and doesn’t know when he’ll return.
“I’m rehabbing every day,” said Wallace, who started the last four games. “I’m here early, so hopefully I’m back real, real soon.”
Mangini nor Wallace ruled out playing Sunday, although it seems unlikely. Wallace had never left a game with an injury and was disappointed in the timing, because he was faring better each week.
“I felt good,” he said. “Things were coming along well in that game. I think we’re headed definitely in the right direction.”
The injury was suffered Sunday on a sack by defensive end John Abraham.
“I knew it was pretty bad,” Wallace said. “I felt something pop when I got rolled on so I knew something happened.
“They said with high ankle sprains they are kind of difficult to gauge. You might feel good enough that you can go out and play a little bit and you realize once you try that you can’t.”
Running back Mike Bell, officially acquired Thursday for running back Jerome Harrison in a trade with Philadelphia, said he was caught off-guard by the move. He was signed by the Eagles as a restricted free agent to a one-year, $1.7 million contract, but carried only 16 times in five games.
“Shady (LeSean McCoy) was playing so well and they paid me a lot of money and I was just sitting,” Bell said. “Thinking logically, give this guy a chance where he has an opportunity to play. I’m not a passing running back, I’m more of a runner.”
Harrison told WKNR 850-AM that he was excited about going to the Eagles.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “I feel new again.”
Harrison never understood why he didn’t open the year as the No. 1 back after rushing for 561 yards in the final three games of 2009. As the season progressed, Peyton Hillis received more and more of the carries.
“It sort of threw me off, because I didn’t understand why,” Harrison said. “I realized I wasn’t their type of back. I wasn’t what they wanted.
“I never got into no arguments with Mangini, Daboll, none of that. I don’t think I was their type of guy.”
Nine Browns didn’t practice for the second straight day, including the starting right side of the offensive line — center Alex Mack (shoulder), right guard Floyd Womack (knee) and right tackle John St. Clair (ankle).
St. Clair has missed two-plus games, with Tony Pashos filling in admirably. Steve Vallos was at center and Billy Yates at right guard with the first team Thursday. Lauvao is a candidate at both spots and said he worked at right guard Wednesday.
Vallos has eight starts in a four-year career, Yates 11 starts in eight years. Lauvao was inactive the first five weeks with a high ankle sprain that he said is “lingering.”
Also missing practice were Hillis (thigh), defensive linemen Shaun Rogers (elbow) and Robaire Smith (back) and tight end Robert Royal (shoulder).
Defensive end Kenyon Coleman (knee) and special teamer Nick Sorensen (calf) returned to practice in a limited capacity.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or email@example.com.