Browns' Anderson smiling again
BEREA, Ohio — Locked in a heated Browns quarterback battle with no end in sight, Derek Anderson is staying cool.
At least outwardly.
A former Pro Bowler competing with Brady Quinn to be Cleveland's starter this season, Anderson has maintained a carefree, no-sense-worrying-about-things attitude during camp. While Browns fans fret over coach Eric Mangini's impending choice as his No. 1 QB, Anderson is relaxed.
Following practice on Wednesday, Anderson was asked, if in a perfect world, how much would he like to play in Saturday's exhibition game against Detroit.
Anderson paused before answering.
"The world's not perfect," he said.
And Anderson has stopped trying to be.
After coming off the bench in Cleveland's exhibition opener at Green Bay, Anderson may get the start Saturday night against the Lions. Mangini has not yet declared his starter for the preseason matchup and said Wednesday he may wait until the end of the week to announce his decision.
That's OK with Anderson.
"When he tells me to go, I go," he said.
Anderson's preseason debut was short, and not sweet. He was on the field for just five plays — to Quinn's 17 — against the Packers. On his only two passing attempts, Anderson was hit both times. One of his passes was dropped by tight end Robert Royal, the other was intercepted.
Mangini has worked hard to make sure the two QBs share the reps in practice, so it's safe to assume Anderson will see more action in the second preseason game.
As for the bigger decision on who will start the Sept. 13 season opener against Minnesota, Mangini said he's in no rush to pick a winner in his quarterback derby. He also doesn't feel the need to establish his starting quarterback as the face of the franchise.
"The face of the team should be the team," Mangini said. "In terms of a timetable, to me it's about making the right decision, not the quick decision."
Anderson's in no rush. He has learned to be patient, and while the media hangs on every twist, he and Quinn are taking their competition in stride.
"We just come out every day and play," he said. "We don't talk about it, we don't overanalyze it. We just come out and run the plays. When it's his turn with the first team, he goes. When it's my turn, I go in. We're both trying to do the best we can and make our teammates as good as we can get 'em."
The clock is ticking on Mangini to make up his mind. Typically, teams have their starters play the majority of their third preseason game, considered to be a dress rehearsal for the opener. As of now, Anderson and Quinn don't know who's playing the lead and who's the understudy.
When Anderson left for summer vacation, he was hurting — physically and mentally — but it was nothing a few rounds of golf couldn't fix.
Anderson clearly wasn't himself during spring minicamps. A knee injury that cut short his 2008 season was followed by a calf injury in June that kept him out of team workouts. He was agitated, working to impress Mangini and a new coaching staff that wasn't sure what they inherited in the rocket-armed Anderson.
"I had a lot of things going on this spring," Anderson said. "Dealing with the injury was frustrating. But I came back to camp with a fresh attitude and healthy."
While away from football, Anderson hooked up with good buddy and former Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer, who had to win plenty of quarterback battles during his 14-year career. The reprieve allowed Anderson to clear his mind and find his groove again.
Dilfer watched Anderson closely last season and didn't like what he saw. Anderson, who had thrown for nearly 4,000 yards and 29 TDs in 2007 when the Browns went 10-6, forced passes into coverage. He seemed uncertain, confused, unfocused. A mess.
During a golf tournament this summer, Dilfer noticed Anderson acting similarly. He was trying too hard, trying to hit the perfect shot — every time.
"I said, 'I know you want be a good, competitive golfer, but you've gotta lighten the burden up a little bit,'" Dilfer said. "'Deal with the imperfections and embrace failure to look at something special the next time. And oh, by the way, it's a lot like what I saw happen to you on the field last year.'"
Anderson took the advice to heart. He came back renewed and relaxed.
Like Quinn, he's had good and bad moments during camp. On Tuesday, Anderson was called for delay of game during the morning practice and then fumbled consecutive snaps in the evening session. After running a lap for his miscues, he picked up a ball and playfully slammed it against his facemask.
The self motivation may have worked.
On Wednesday, he threw with confidence and concluded a two-minute drill with a 20-yard TD pass to rookie Mohamed Massaquoi.
Anderson may be a decided underdog in this quarterback derby. But he knows he doesn't have to lead the Browns to a score every time he's under center to make up ground on Quinn.
"It's not realistic," he said. "You're not going to score on every single drive and if you go in with that mentality, bad things happen: You start making reads you wouldn't do, you start forcing balls you wouldn't throw. Just play the segment you're in the game and focus on it.
"And whatever happens, happens."