Browns barely walking

Om Withers and Om Withers

BEREA, Ohio – After unstrapping ice bags from both swollen, aching knees, Trent Dilfer hobbled down the hallway and into Cleveland’s locker room. Forcing a smile, the Browns’ battered quarterback updated his medical condition.

“I’m walking,” he said yesterday, “which is good.”

The Browns are moving, too. In reverse.

At times during Sunday’s 24-12 loss at Minnesota, the Browns looked unorganized, undisciplined and unmotivated as a medley of mistakes sent them to one of their most lopsided losses – one week after shutting out Miami 22-0.

“We took a huge step back,” running back Reuben Droughns said. “We got pretty much demolished out there.”

Dilfer took the brunt of the beating, getting sacked five times and roughed up countless others by a relentless Vikings defensive front that mostly overpowered the Browns’ offensive line.

Dilfer had MRIs on both knees at the Cleveland Clinic, and the club was awaiting test results on the 33-year-old.

Browns coach Romeo Crennel said that barring an injury, Dilfer will remain his starting quarterback. Although he plans to play backup Charlie Frye, Crennel isn’#39;t ready to start the rookie just yet.

“Probably not this week,” he said. “It’s my choice and I’m deciding to stay with the veteran if he’s healthy and he can go.”

Judging by Dilfer’s current gimpy condition, Frye’s chances of making his first NFL start have never been better.

A 12-year veteran who has played through pain many times, Dilfer didn’#39;t want to guess about the severity of his injury or whether he’ll be able to play on Sunday at home against Jacksonville.

“I hate speculating about that because I’ve had things that have hurt so bad before I didn’t think I’d be able to walk and I was fine the next day,” said Dilfer, who sprained a knee ligament in 2002 when he was with Seattle. “I’ve had stuff that hasn’t hurt that bad and it holds you out.”

On a sack in the third quarter, Dilfer’s right knee was crushed under the weight of having both Vikings defensive end Darrion Scott and Browns left tackle L.J. Shelton, listed at 345 pounds, fall on him.

“The one hit, I thought I was done,” Dilfer said. “There was a sharp pain, I didn’t think I would be able to get up. But that’s happened before and you get up and move it around a little bit and you realize it’s not a catastrophic injury at the time. When I realized it wasn’t, I wasn’#39;t going to come out.”

Dilfer limped badly throughout most of the second half when the Browns (4-7) were still within two touchdowns and trying to rally. He didn’#39;t want to sit if he didn’#39;t have to, displaying a toughness that impressed his teammates.

“You could tell he was in some pain and that definitely showed me a lot,” center Jeff Faine said. “I knew he had that. But that was an actual, real example of some true heart and some true determination.”

Aside from Dilfer’s toughness, the Browns did little else to show they’re improving under Crennel.

Beginning with a pass by Dilfer that rookie wide receiver Braylon Edwards let tip off his fingertips for an easy interception, the Browns made too many forced and unforced errors to have any chance of winning.

Cleveland had three turnovers – two when Dilfer fumbled after being blindsided – inside their own 35-yard line. The Vikings converted each into touchdowns, needing to go only 84 yards for 21 points.

The other miscue came when Frye replaced Dilfer for one play in the fourth quarter and threw an interception that Crennel blamed on a miscommunication between his young QB and Edwards.

Those mistakes are correctable, but Browns fans remained puzzled about what happened late in the first half when trailing 10-0, the offense stood around and squandered a chance to score a touchdown.

The Browns had first-and-goal at the 5 with 40 seconds left, but instead of spiking the ball or rushing a snap, Cleveland huddled and Dilfer didn’#39;t get off a play until only 12 seconds remained. Two false start penalties pushed the Browns farther back, and they had to settle for Phil Dawson’#39;s field goal with four seconds to play.

“We wasted a lot of time there,” Droughns said. “We were kind of slow getting up to the line and not realizing how much time there was.”

After Sunday’s game, Crennel said he didn’#39;t recollect the sequence. On Monday, he didn’#39;t offer a detailed explanation why the team wasn’#39;t in more of a rush.

However, Crennel did say that after 11 games, it’#39;s about time the Browns sped up their learning curve.

“I thought that we had made some progress and had gotten past jumping off-sides, losing containment, fumbling the ball and turnovers,” he said. “We hadn’t gotten past it. It came back.”