BEREA, Ohio — Eric Mangini said the reason the Browns traded Jerome Harrison was because of the expanded role of Peyton Hillis. It was not as a result of Harrison being in Mangini's dog house or being phased out.
“Things change within the offense and with (Hillis') expanded role, the move was made," Mangini said. “Peyton’s role has expanded and Mike Bell is a guy we liked in the free agency process. He's more of a fit for us and feel that Jerome was a good fit for them.”
Mangini said the coaches will evaluate Mike Bell this week and see if he can play against Pittsburgh.
“We’re excited to have him here,” he said. “Scott (Fujita) played with him (in New Orleans) and said a lot of good things about him. Obviously, there was more to it than that, but we’re excited to get him acclimated to our system.”
Bell, who will wear No. 22, practiced for the first time Thursday. He was asked if he thought he would play against the Steelers.
“I think I can, but we’ll see how (Thursday) goes,” Bell said. “I anticipate playing.”
Bell said he hasn’t been told what his role will be.
“(The coaches) haven’t really said anything,” he said. “They want to see how I look (at practice).”
Mangini reiterated that he and Harrison did not have a falling out. However, after rushing for 561 yards in the final three games of the 2009, including a 286-yard performance against Kansas City, the Browns acquired Hillis and traded up to select running back Montario Hardesty in the second-round of this year’s draft.
“No role at all (in the trade),” he said. “Our decision is not going to be based on that at all. We talked about that the player has a chance to talk to me if they’re dissatisfied and we never had that conversation. This decision is based on what we think is best going forward.”
Rather, he emphasized that Hillis has put himself into a position to be the focal point of the offense, after coming over in the Brady Quinn trade.
“Hillis is here because he’s a good back,” Mangini said. “He got opportunities and he took advantage of those opportunities and things change. He earned that role. You bring guys in for depth, flexibility and sometimes things evolve.”
Hillis is listed as doubtful with a thigh injury, but Mangini anticipates he will be ready to play against the Steelers.
The Browns officially announced they had acquired Bell in exchange for Harrison on Thursday. Bell was an undrafted free agent signed by the Broncos in 2006. He had played in 42 games in his five-year career with six starts. He rushed for 1,404 yards on 364 carries with 14 touchdowns in his career. He also has caught 27 passes for 196 yards. Bell’s best year was with the Broncos where he had 677 yards and eight touchdowns in his rookie year.
In addition to playing two years in Denver, he played for two years with the Saints where he led the Saints with 654 yards and five touchdowns in 2009 on their way to a Super Bowl win.
After signing with the Eagles, Bell appeared in five games this season with 28 yards on 16 carries. He had once reception for five yards.
Mangini said he felt Bell fit in with what the Browns are trying to do in the running game. Bell is bigger (6-foot, 225 pounds) than Harrison (5-9, 205).
“He is more of a tough, physical runner,” Mangini said. “I don’t think he’s deficient in (the speed) area and he has some similarities to Hillis.”
Bell said he’s hoping to find a role and a home with the Browns after bouncing around the past few seasons.
“Oh definitely, it’s like my fifth team and I definitely want to find a home,” he said. “But, as long as I’m still playing, I can’t complain.”
Bell and Hillis were teammates with Denver in 2007 and he thinks they can complement each other well.
“I played with Peyton in Denver,” he said. “We have a good offensive line that does a great job up front.”
Bell doesn’t look at the trade of going from a potential playoff team in Philadelphia to a 1-4 struggling team.
“This is a good football team that has lost a lot of close football games,” he said. “I’ m coming from a good football team and I really can’t ask for anything more.”
If Bell isn’t up to speed and Hillis is still hobbling, James Davis could get some of the carries.
“James has had some opportunities and things can change pretty dramatically in the NFL,” Mangini said.
Mangini was asked if Davis would give the Browns the best chance to break the long run.
“James has done some good things in getting vertical, but Peyton has done some things in the open field, as well.”
Colt Looks Good: According Mangini, QB Colt McCoy looked good in his first practice with the first team.
“Colt got the bulk of the reps and I thought he did a really nice job,” he said. “He operated the offense well mechanically, and in terms of reads. Brettt (Ratliff) got some work there, too.
“(McCoy) seemed really comfortable behind center in that role. That’s probably what he is used to from his days in college.”
Mangini was asked if he is announcing McCoy as the starter.
“I would say the leaning is more pronounced,” he said. “What happens today, is he gets the bulk of the install and be able to execute the new stuff. It’s a little different for him in that regard. He’s been much more limited prior to this week. We want to see the progression.”
Wallace was in the locker room in a walking boot and limping. He doesn’t look as though he would be ready in two to three days. He confirmed he has a high ankle sprain. Delhomme was not seen in the locker room.
“I keep (the boot on) walking around,” Wallace said. “I get in here early and I’m hopeful (on playing). I don’t know. I will continue to rehab and see how it is Friday.”
Mangini, as expected, was evasive about the status of Delhomme and Wallace.
When asked, how they were doing, Mangini responded, "Good. Like a lot of injuries, they are not created equal.”
He said based on what transpired with Delhomme last Sunday, they will wait as along as they can.
“We will talk about that Friday or Saturday and go as deep as we can.”
Injury Update: On the first injury report of the week, the Browns had 14 players listed. Meanwhile, the Steelers had just one play, OL Trai Essex, who was listed as questionable. The Browns had 11 players as doubtful including OL Kenyon Coleman (knee), QB Jake Delhomme (ankle), RB Peyton Hillis (thigh), OL Alex Mack (shoulder), DL Shaun Rogers (elbow), TE Robert Royal (shoulder), DL Robaire Smith (back), DB Nick Sorenson (calf), OL John St. Clair (ankle), OL Floyd Womack (knee) and QB Seneca Wallace (knee). WR Josh Cribbs (ankle), DB Abram Elam (knee) and OL Joe Thomas (shin) were all questionable.
Mangini said he expected the ‘bulk’ of the players to practice before the week was over, although Delhomme and Wallace are uncertain. St. Clair was walking in the locker room in a boot on his left ankle.
Mangini said that the injury list will be the same as it was Wednesday.
“We were hoping to get a couple of those guys back today.”