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BROWNS Dilfer excited about chance


Published: Wed, September 7, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.


The reason he came to Cleveland was the chance to be a starter again.
BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- For a split second, Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer wasn't sure. He stared at the locker room floor, drawing a blank while trying to recall his previous start as an NFL quarterback.
"Whew," he said before remembering. "Um, it was the end of last year against Arizona. I've been hit in the head too many times to remember them all, but there haven't been many in the past two years."
Dilfer may never forget his next one.
On Sunday, against the Cincinnati Bengals, the 33-year-old Dilfer is starting over.
And although he has made 96 career starts during 11 seasons as a pro with Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Seattle, Dilfer can hardly wait for kickoff's arrival.
"I'm excited," he said. "Like I've said 37 times. That's my word of the day. But I am. I'm excited to get to play again. I'm excited because of the hard work I've put in and we've put in."
What brought him here
The chance to start is what brought Dilfer to the Browns, who got him in a trade with the Seahawks in March. Dilfer spent four years in Seattle, where he endured personal and professional hardships -- ones that shaped his life and strengthened his will to become a better person and player.
His career seemed to peak in 2000 when he won a Super Bowl with Baltimore. However, the Ravens didn't want him back and he was signed by the Seahawks as a free agent. He went 4-0 as a starter in relief of Matt Hasselbeck, and won the starting job for 2002 before his season was cut short by injury.
The following spring, Dilfer's 5-year-old son, Trevin, died of a heart infection. The tragedy drove him to the brink of retiring before Dilfer was convinced by Hasselbeck and others to keep going.
Unsatisfied with role
Dilfer backed up Hasselbeck in 2003 but didn't get a chance to start and attempted just eight passes all season. He went 2-0 last year filling in for Hasselbeck, but was unsatisfied in the role.
He longed to be the No. 1 quarterback again. He wanted the pressure, the responsibility, the adrenaline rush of throwing a TD pass, the thrill of leading a team to victory. Dilfer's got it all back, and he doesn't want to ever lose it.
"I'm grateful and excited," he said. "I think I appreciate it more than I ever have before, and because of that I'm even more focused than I have been in the past. I'm investing whatever energy I have into this game, get this 'W' and move on."
Dilfer is the Browns' seventh different starting quarterback since 1999, but the only one with a Super Bowl ring. Cleveland won't be contending for a title anytime soon, so the Browns are counting on other intangibles, like leadership, from Dilfer.
Leadership role
"If you want me to sit here and say that Trent has lit it up, he hasn't," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "Trent has provided the kind of leadership that we expected when we got him. I think Trent will run the offense the way we expect him to. Is it going to be perfect? Probably not. If he would have been perfect then we wouldn't have got him. He would have been somewhere else."
Cleveland's fall the past few years can be blamed in part to some lousy play from their quarterbacks, who besides failing to make plays, didn't inspire their teammates in other ways.
Dilfer has already done both.
"Not to take away anything from those other guys. But bringing in a veteran like Trent was huge," offensive tackle Ryan Tucker said.
"Young players watch his work ethic. From Day One, he has taken command and embraced the leadership role on and off the field. A lot of young guys can see than and take a lot from it."


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