- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 8, 2010

BEREA, OHIO (AP) - Resting on the top shelf of Jake Delhomme’s locker are a ratty set of shoulder pads, hand-me-downs from New Orleans teammate Billy Joe Tolliver.

Delhomme brought the well-worn equipment with him to Cleveland after seven seasons in Carolina. He wears them during training camp because they’re much lighter than new ones, and any break from the summer’s heat helps.

Veteran move. Delhomme laughs.

“When I’m done, I’m going to give them to Colt,” Delhomme said Wednesday, referring to Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy. “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”

The same could be said of Delhomme.

Like his used shoulder protection, the 35-year-old quarterback has seen better days but can still get the job done.

On Sunday in Tampa Bay, he’ll begin a new chapter _ and maybe the final one _ of an NFL career that peaked with a Super Bowl trip and bottomed out last season amid a flurry interceptions with the Panthers, who waived Delhomme when it ended.

He’s got a fresh start, and so far it has gone better than Delhomme or the Browns could have imagined.

“It has gone somewhat smoothly,” he said before practice, as if almost surprised.

It’s been better than that.

Delhomme played exceptionally well during the preseason. So well, in fact, that skeptical Browns fans, who wondered what the team’s new front office was doing when it signed Delhomme to a 2-year deal, have become cautiously optimistic that the franchise’s dark era is history.

Badly needing a proven leader at QB, Delhomme has filled that role, and in essence, taken control of the Browns. His teammates selected him a captain for the upcoming season, which kicks off against the Buccaneers, a team Delhomme is 9-2 against as a starter.

“That’s always an honor,” Delhomme said of his selection as an offensive captain along with tackle Joe Thomas. “To be elected captain means more to me than almost anything else because it’s voted on by the people who know you best. It’s special.”

Even more so because he was chosen before playing his first game in an orange helmet. But since the day he arrived, Delhomme has exuded confidence and commitment. Excited by the opportunity to jump-start both his career and the Browns, he has blended in effortlessly.

It’s as if he and the Browns were made for each other.

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