- Associated Press - Thursday, September 30, 2010

BEREA, OHIO (AP) - Jake Delhomme can tolerate the pain in his severely sprained right ankle. It’s the deep ache in his stomach that’s been unbearable for Cleveland’s quarterback.

Standing on the sideline for two Sundays have been excruciating.

Inactive the last two games because of a high ankle sprain suffered in the Browns’ season opener, Delhomme returned to practice for the first time in more than two weeks on Thursday as the Browns (0-3) continued to prepare for this week’s game against Cincinnati (2-1).

Delhomme was noticeably favoring his ankle in the locker room and on the field, but it was a major step for the veteran, who hopes to start against the Bengals.

He can’t bear the thought of not playing _ again.

“It’s very difficult when you got to the stadium on Sunday and there’s a hollow feeling inside,” he said. “To me, that’s always something that you just don’t feel like you’re there for your teammates. That’s always something that bothered me a great deal.”

Delhomme said he needed to test his ankle before he would know if he can play. It’s possible he could be listed as Cleveland’s No. 2 quarterback against the Bengals.

Browns coach Eric Mangini said Delhomme will start on Sunday _ if he can.

“He’s our starting quarterback,” Mangini said. “So when he’s ready to start, he’ll start.”

During the 30 minutes of practice opened to the media, Delhomme favored his ankle, which he injured while throwing a costly interception late in the first half of Cleveland’s 17-14 loss in Week 1. During drills, he struggled pushing off on some of his throws.

Seneca Wallace has filled in the past two weeks for Delhomme in losses to Kansas City and Baltimore. Mangini has been pleased with how Wallace, a career backup, has played. But if Delhomme is ready, there is zero debate among Cleveland’s coaching staff on who will play.

Delhomme is the starter. Period.

Mangini had a quarterback controversy last season with Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn.

There’s no such problem now.

Jake does a lot of things really well. Seneca does a lot of things really well,” Mangini explained. “In looking at what they both do well, I felt that Jake should be the starter. Jake has a great command of the offense. He has a great presence. I think he gets us into good plays, he gets us out of plays that aren’t very good. He’s got a lot of experience but that’s not a comparative to Seneca, it’s things that he does well.”

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