Sunday, December 7, 2003

Couch preparing for football away from Cleveland

Future with club remains shaky

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - Carrying No. 2 jerseys, bobblehead dolls and footballs, hundreds of chilly Browns fans stood in line outside a jewelry store earlier this week waiting to see quarterback Tim Couch.

They came to get Couch's autograph, shake his hand and have their picture taken with him.

And, perhaps, to say goodbye.

Unless something dramatic happens - and let's not forget, these are the Browns - Couch will probably not be back for a sixth season in Cleveland.

"I want to be," said Couch, who lost his starting job to Kelly Holcomb. "But I'm sure I'm not going to be if I'm a backup. I want to play. This year it was tough to sit, but I want to be here, and hopefully I can play here."

The Browns, who host the St. Louis Rams on Monday night, will probably only keep Couch if the former No. 1 overall pick is willing to restructure a contract that will pay him $7.6 million next season and $8 million the year after.

Couch already sounds as if he expects the Browns to release him.

Asked if he knew what other NFL personnel people thought of him, Couch said, "I don't have any idea at this point. I'm sure I'll find out pretty soon."

If anyone can appreciate Couch's predicament it's Rams quarterback Kurt Warner.

Warner, like his Cleveland counterpart, lost his job earlier this season and has had his role with the Rams reduced to running the scout team in practice.

And like Couch, who has supported Holcomb throughout a difficult year, the high-priced Warner has never wavered from being a consummate team player as Marc Bulger's backup.

Warner led St. Louis to two Super Bowls, and now wonders if he'll ever get a chance to return there with the Rams.

"Any time you go from the starter to the backup, that crosses your mind continually," Warner said. "You don't know what the situation's going to be. You don't know what the future has in store. So, yeah, there's no question that those thoughts go through your mind."

Couch has been in the league long enough that nothing surprises him. However, there is still an element of shock to see someone of Warner's stature on the sideline.

"You see a lot of guys you'd thought would be playing, especially Kurt Warner, the MVP of the league, MVP of the Super Bowl. You'd definitely think he'd be a starter somewhere," Couch said. "I'm sure he will be next year."

Couch started four games this season, going 2-2 filling in while Holcomb recovered from a broken right leg. When Holcomb was healthy, Couch was demoted again.

In a season of strange twists, Couch may have had an opportunity to win his job back last Sunday in Seattle. Needing a spark with the Browns down 17-0 at halftime, coach Butch Davis brought in Couch to start the third quarter.

But on just his fifth play, Couch sustained a sprained knee ligament and was done. It was yet another unlucky blow for Couch, who has taken more than his share over the years.

"The hits just keep on coming for him," guard Shaun O'Hara said. "That's the way the season has gone. It's unfortunate for him. He's worked hard. He's put in a lot of time here, plus he's a good friend. That's the tough part of this business."

Couch thinks he'll be able to play Monday if needed.

"I want to play. I'd love to, but like the whole year, it's Kelly's job and coach's decision," he said. "If they want me to play, I'll be ready to go in and get the job done."

Tim Couch's career passing statistics

1999Cleveland Browns1539922355.92,447151373.2
2000Cleveland Browns721513763.71,4837977.3
2001Cleveland Browns1645427259.93,040172173.1
2002Cleveland Browns1444327361.62,842181876.8
2003Cleveland Browns61258064.07624478.1
* Stats from

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