Watching, waiting hard for McCoy

Published 12:03 am Sunday, August 15, 2010

BEREA — As the Cleveland Browns sweat through another steamy training camp practice, Colt McCoy stands on the sideline with his arms folded.

He’s watching, waiting.

This is all new for McCoy, the former Texas star who won more games than any other quarterback in college football history. He’s a third-stringer now, buried on Cleveland’s depth chart below starter Jake Delhomme and backup Seneca Wallace.

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“It’s hard,” he said.

It’s not going to get easier anytime soon for McCoy, either. Barring injuries, he’s slated to spend the season in an understudy’s role, learning how to play the NFL’s most demanding and challenging position as a third-stringer. It’s going to take some getting used to.

“It’s definitely something I’ve got to work on and I’ve got to learn,” said McCoy, who slid to the third round in April’s draft before being snatched by the Browns. “It is hard, especially over the last four years where you’ve taken every rep and every snap in every game. I just got to get used to it because it’s going to be the same way all season and I’ve got to be ready to go and make some plays.”

While waiting for his time to come, McCoy has immersed himself in Cleveland’s thick playbook. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a chapter dedicated to patience. McCoy admits that isn’t one of his virtues. Given an assignment, he would prefer to knock it out and move on to the next one.

He doesn’t have that luxury anymore.

McCoy is starting from scratch as a pro.

“I think it’s universal for most rookies,” he said after practice earlier this week. “Some rookies step right in and play. Hats off to them. I’m just trying to be the best I can be in the situation that I’m in and when it’s time, it’s time.”

McCoy, who threw for more than 13,000 yards and 112 touchdowns with the Longhorns, would like nothing more than to play immediately. But he understands his current status and is tapping into Delhomme and Wallace’s experience to make him a better player.

Delhomme remembers what it’s like to be a wide-eyed rookie, lost in the dizzying speed of a game moving at warp speed compared to college ball.

Delhomme has been impressed with McCoy’s eagerness to learn and passion to improve. He’s willing to mentor and help the 23-year-old’s transition.

“He’s very intelligent, that’s one thing you can tell just being in meetings, and it’s important to him,” Delhomme said. “If it’s not important to somebody, then they’re really not going to give you everything they have. He wants to be good. He’s not getting a whole lot of reps right now, but he’s doing a really good job.”

Delhomme never saw the field as a rookie in 1998 with New Orleans, and he didn’t make his first start until his sixth year when he was with Carolina. He knows what McCoy is going through.

“It’s hard,” he said. “I did the same thing. I started all four years in high school and all four years in college. You get to the NFL, I was on a knee for 90 percent of the practice just watching. It’s a major adjustment. There’s no other way around it.”

McCoy’s baptism began on Saturday in a scrimmage at Browns Stadium. Eager to show his stuff after getting a loud ovation from Cleveland fans, he threw two interceptions, one at the end of the first half and one that was returned by Brandon McDonald for a TD.

McCoy didn’t dwell on the mistakes. Instead, he promised not to make them again.

“Those are lessons learned,” he said. “Those are things you can take away from that, get back in the locker room, write it down and understand that I’m not going to do that again. B-Mac’s a great player and made the play. It’s a great coaching tool.

“I’ve still got a lot to learn.”

Coach Eric Mangini was pleased to hear about McCoy’s self criticism, and has been pleased with the youngster’s progress in camp.

“He is a really good student,” Mangini said. “What I like about Colt is that he embraces and really understands the importance of getting with Jake and Seneca. He will get one element of understanding from the coaching staff, but a guy like Jake who has so much game experience really can help a young guy like that. He has been like a sponge, which is what he should be at this point.”

McCoy has much loftier goals. But this young Colt, still on wobbly legs, knows he must learn to walk before he can run.

While Delhomme and Wallace took turns running the two-minute drill at the end of practice on Tuesday, McCoy intently studied their every move. He counted the steps in their dropbacks, listened to their cadences and as they scanned the field for open receivers, his eyes darted around too.

It’s not his time. Not yet.

“I’ve got a long ways to go,” he said, “but I’m learning more and more every day and I’m feeling more comfortable every day.”