Chance to start lured QB Delhomme to choose Browns over Saints

BEREA, Ohio -- 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 the quarterback to return to Charlotte, N.C., where he chose to sign a two-year contract 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 Wednesday. "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 the Seattle Seahawks last week.

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

Delhomme also acknowledges that the five-interception performance in a playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals 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," Delhomme 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 news conference in Carolina, took a few days to get over the sting of being released. He wanted to visit just two teams -- the Browns and Saints.

Cleveland went 5-11 last season 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 they won four of their last five games. Delhomme signed with Carolina following that season and led the team 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," Delhomme 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 Bowl players. 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."

Notes: The Browns re-signed RB Chris Jennings and LBs Marcus Benard and Blake Costanzo on Wednesday. Benard and Jennings began the 2009 season on the Browns' practice squad before making it onto the active roster. Costanzo played in all 16 games, primarily on special teams. ... The Browns also announced Jim Ross as their senior vice president/business development. Ross spent the last three years with the New York Yankees and has worked in the sports industry for 25 years. He will oversee all of the Browns' sales and marketing.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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