Couch still lobbying to play in Browns season finale

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 23, 1999

The Associated Press

Berea – Tim Couch can’t bear the thought standing on the sideline to watch the final game of his rookie season with the Browns.

Thursday, December 23, 1999

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Berea – Tim Couch can’t bear the thought standing on the sideline to watch the final game of his rookie season with the Browns.

Couch, who sprained his left foot last week against Jacksonville, has been told he can’t play in Cleveland’s season finale this Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

But that hasn’t stopped him from trying to convince himself and coach Chris Palmer he can play.

”He’s very anxious to play,” Palmer said after Wednesday’s practice. ”He’s spoken to me three times today – this morning, during lunch and on the field. But if I were a betting man, I’d bet on what I said.”

Couch has played hurt plenty of times, ignoring the pain to get back in the huddle and under center. He said he’s missed just one play his entire football career, but came right back in against Florida last year to take the next snap.

”It’s going to be tough standing over there watching your teammates play when you want to be out there so bad,” said Couch, who wore a walking cast and watched part of practice sitting in a golf cart. ”But it’s something that I’m going to have to do, I guess.”

So Couch’s impressive rookie year looks like it will end where it began – on the bench, watching Ty Detmer.

Detmer began the season starting for the Browns (2-13) but was replaced by Couch the next game.

”It’s hard to sit out, you lose the rhythm, the timing and that kind of thing,” said Detmer, who played well in relief of Couch last week. ”But I feel like I’ve stayed fairly sharp in practice and stayed up to date on the offense.”

Couch had been especially anxious to play Sunday. He and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning have become close friends, spending time together off the field and frequently talking on the phone.

”I looked forward to that,” he said. ”You always want to be out on the field competing against the best quarterbacks in the league. As a competitor, you want to be out there. But I think I have to realize what’s best for the long run as far as the foot goes.”

Unless he has a miraculous recovery, Couch will be relegated to being the Browns’ third-string quarterback on Sunday.

”Hopefully, I can do that. We’ll have to wait and see,” said Couch, who was to be re-evaluated by a team doctor. ”That’s what I’m hoping for, but if not, I’ll have to be standing over there, cheering Ty on.”

Couch was sacked a team-record and NFL-high 56 times this season, the final one coming late in the first half last Sunday when Jaguars defensive end Tony Brackens rolled up on the quarterback’s ankles.

When Couch went down and didn’t pop up like he has all year, Cleveland fans went silent and Browns owner Al Lerner grabbed his binoculars for a closer look at his franchise player.

I thought it was broken,” Couch said. ”To be honest with you, I think I was real fortunate that it wasn’t worse than it was. When he first landed on it, the pain, it felt like it was broke, definitely. I’m fortunate that it was just a sprain.”

Couch will finish the season with nearly every Cleveland rookie passing record, and his 223 completions are the third-most in league history for a first-year quarterback.

With 15 TDs and 13 interceptions, Couch is just the fifth rookie passer since 1970 with more touchdowns than interceptions.

He improved almost weekly, and Couch’s performance on and off the field reaffirmed the Browns’ belief that they chose wisely in making him the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft.

”As the season went on, I thought I progressed as far as making my reads, throwing to the right guy, moving the chains a little bit better and putting some points on the board.”

Couch said there is just one area he needs to improve.

”I guess just the wins and losses,” he said. ”I think every quarterback gets measured on how much he wins.”