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Wallace, Delhomme hurt, so Browns might start McCoy at QB

Colt McCoy, front and center. And don't trip.

The Cleveland Browns need you now.

With quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace both nursing severe ankle injuries, Browns coach Eric Mangini said Monday it's possible that McCoy, a rookie with no NFL regular-season playing experience, will start Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

At this point, the Browns have few other options.

"It's only the Steelers, right?" Mangini said with a perfect touch of sarcasm. "Coming off a bye week? They don't blitz much."

Once again, the Browns' quarterback carousel is in overdrive. When isn't it?

The Browns have used 15 different starters at quarterback since 1999. For comparison's sake, the Indianapolis Colts have used only one -- Peyton Manning.

Mangini might have no other choice but to play McCoy after Wallace sustained what appeared to be a severe ankle injury during Sunday's loss to the Atlanta Falcons, and Delhomme came in and appeared to re-injure the badly sprained right ankle that sidelined him for three games.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer cited sources in reporting that Delhomme has both high and low ankle sprains, while Wallace has a high ankle sprain.

Following the game, Delhomme walked with a noticeable limp. Wallace was much worse. He could barely make it to the shower, and family members who had been waiting in the corridor outside Cleveland's locker room to see him were brought to his cubicle.

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Mangini, who routinely guards injury news, wouldn't provide an update on either player. He refused to say if Delhomme had suffered a setback. He also said the team was awaiting test results on both QBs and that he would have a more definitive answer on the team's direction by practice Wednesday.

"Believe me, there's a lot that can happen between now and Wednesday with Jake, with Seneca, with roster moves," Mangini said. "There's a lot of moving parts here, so it's hard for me to give you anything that definitive because there's nothing definitive to give right now."

There was moments later.

Shortly after Mangini met with the media, the agent for quarterback Brett Ratliff confirmed that the Browns will re-sign his client off the New England Patriots' practice squad.

Agent Joe Palumbo said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that Cleveland is bringing back Ratliff, who spent last season with the team after coming over in the 2009 draft-day trade with the New York Jets. Ratliff was the Browns' No. 3 quarterback for 14 games and the backup for two. first reported the Browns would sign Ratliff to back up McCoy against the blitz-crazed Steelers.

The Browns didn't announce any moves, and a spokesman said the team "would not have anything today."

Although Ratliff is on the way, Mangini seems poised to give McCoy, the former University of Texas star, his first big break as a pro. After Delhomme was hurt in the Sept. 12 season opener at Tampa Bay, McCoy served as Wallace's backup for three games and now could be thrust into the starting lineup against one of the NFL's toughest defenses.

Mangini is prepared to play McCoy, who was expected to go higher in April's draft but slid to the third round, if he must.

"Look, I've played with a ton of rookies at different spots, and at some point, everybody has to start their first game," Mangini said. "At some point, everybody has to get their chance. To me, that's what all these guys are looking for, that moment to show what they can do.

"They've played football their whole lives, and a situation like Colt's, he has been a very successful quarterback for a long time. I'm sure he's champing at the bit to get his first chance to do that."

Mangini pointed out that rookie safety T.J. Ward couldn't wait to get on the field and that McCoy, whose 45 wins with the Longhorns are the most in NCAA history, is no different.

Mangini believes McCoy wants the challenge.

"If you didn't have that guy, then you drafted the wrong guy," Mangini said. "If he's sitting at home at night curled up in a blanket hoping he doesn't get the start, you've got the wrong guy. You look for that competitiveness. You want the young guys to always be pushing the guy in front of them, saying, 'Come on, move out of the way, give me my chance to do it."'

Mangini said McCoy has taken "quite a few" snaps with Cleveland's first-string offense since Delhomme was hurt.

McCoy struggled through much of the preseason, but he finished strong. In the Browns' preseason finale against the Chicago Bears, he completed 13 of 13 passes for 131 yards, but he was sacked three times.

The last Browns rookie quarterback to start against the Steelers was Charlie Frye, who was sacked eight times in a 41-0 Cleveland loss in 2005.

Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden believes McCoy is ready.

"I know Colt," Haden said. "In practice, he plays a lot, and he does well against our defense. I know he'll study hard and get focused. He just loves to play the game, so he's looking forward to it. Honestly, he's not afraid at all. He wants to be out there on the field."

The Associated Press contibuted to this report.

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