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 exhibitions 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 campaign. 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 in thrilling fashion last week, 27-24 at Green Bay.
“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 Del-homme, who is being paid $7 million by Cleveland and $12.5 million by Carolina in 2010. “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 shoul-ders, 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 jour-neyman.
“Bradford is a good player, he did some impressive things in college (at Oklahoma), and I imag-ine 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 had 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 for-ward to facing him any more than we are anyone else,” added safety T.J. Ward, the 38th overall selec-tion.
“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 fu-ture.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.