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Rock star QB remains quintessential face of Browns

BEREA, Ohio -- Kids scream with delight, women swoon and men suck in their beer guts. Brady Quinn has an effect on Browns fans young and old.

Following practice the other day, Cleveland's wildly popular quarterback signed a few autographs before jogging toward the locker room accompanied step for step by a team security official assigned to watch Quinn's back.

Football hero? More like rock star.

"C'mon now," Quinn said, cracking a smile. "Let's not get out of hand."

But it's true. Although he has thrown two fewer passes (eight) during his NFL career than his jersey number (10), Quinn is the quintessential face of the Browns.

However, while his Q Rating may be through the roof, Quinn will begin his second pro season as the Browns' second quarterback, Derek Anderson's backup.

</center> Kellen Winslow has put aside his demands for a new contract, emphatically proclaiming, "I don't want to be a distraction" when the 
Browns opened camp. 
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Is he prepared to sit again?

"It would be tough," he said. "There's no doubt about that. I can't stress that anymore. I feel prepared. I feel ready. I know I learned a lot last year even though I didn't get to play that much at all. I think it did benefit me in many ways. At this point now, I'm ready to play and I'm ready to go.

"When it comes right down to it, I'm ready for whatever this team needs me to do."

For now, that would be to push Anderson during training camp and to be ready in case the backup-turned-Pro Bowler falls flat on his face early in the season, when Cleveland embarks on a much tougher schedule than it had last season. And if that doesn't happen and Anderson remains the starter, Quinn, the former Notre Dame golden boy will remain a QB in waiting, and the one player whose appearance at a local mall can incite a near riot.

Inquiries for Quinn to speak or just show up at events flood into the team's offices from charities, schools and local organizations craving the one sports celebrity in town who could challenge LeBron James in a popularity contest. The Browns receive 10 times more requests for Quinn than any other player on a team with a roster of rising, young stars including Anderson, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and Joe Thomas - all Pro Bowlers - along with Jamal Lewis, a former NFL offensive player of the year.

Quinn isn't completely comfortable talking about his celebrity, but he's beginning to appreciate it.

"You kind of have to embrace it in some ways," he said. "You also sort of have to protect yourself and kind of limit what you do or at least how much fun you can have out in public. That sometimes puts a little bit of a damper on things, but it's great to be in the position that I'm in and hopefully it will get better and better."

The star treatment can come with a price, though. Quinn has been a target in the past and he's as likely to appear on a men's health magazine cover as a celebrity-gossip TV show.

There are perks, too, with being in the spotlight. With the prospect of having to serve as a backup for another season, Quinn sought advice from Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, two QBs who had to pay their dues by carrying around their helmet instead of wearing it on game day. Romo had to wait five years, Rodgers, caught in the middle of the Brett Favre drama, is entering his third pro season.

"Tony Romo told me to continue to be patient and work on things," Quinn said. "They both were very inspiring and gave some helpful tips I think I can take away while not being on the field right away. They kind of shared that eagerness and the competitiveness about wanting to get in there and want to play."

Quinn laughed as he recalled hanging out with Romo during the recent ESPY Awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

"I was trying not to look at (Romo's celebrity girlfriend) Jessica Simpson as I was talking to him," he said. "I don't know how much I really comprehended what he said."

Quinn understands he's not guaranteed playing a single snap this season. He may be the people's choice, but Anderson remains coach Romeo Crennel's pick -- at the moment.

Being No. 2 hasn't slowed Quinn's desire and his urge to compete remains as strong as ever. He's a relentless worker whether in the film room or weight room. Although he didn't make his NFL debut until the final game of his rookie season, replacing Anderson for one series in the second quarter against San Francisco, the small taste of action has him wanting more.

"It made me hungrier than ever to play football again," he said.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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