Holcomb suffers hairline fracture

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 23, 2003

BEREA - Kelly Holcomb was tough enough to play on a broken leg last week, giving Browns coach Butch Davis hope that that the Cleveland quarterback can do it again.

Holcomb sustained a hairline fracture to his right leg in the first quarter Sunday of a 13-12 comeback win in San Francisco. Yet despite the injury, Holcomb played through the pain and rallied the Browns (1-2) by throwing two fourth-quarter TD passes - the final one with 29 seconds left.

Davis said it's too early to say if Holcomb's injury will keep him out of this week's game against Cincinnati, and that his quarterback could conceivably play with the injury all season.

Email newsletter signup

''He played the whole game yesterday on it,'' Davis said defiantly.

But given the way Holcomb hobbled off the field, it would be hard to imagine him recovering quickly enough for the Browns to put him back out there, even against the lowly Bengals (0-3).

Davis, though, is staying optimistic.

''We'll see how the swelling comes out and it will be day-to-day,'' Davis said.

Holcomb, selected the starter by Davis over Tim Couch at the end of training camp, was injured on a sneak near his own goal line. As Holcomb pushed into the line, defensive end Chidi Ahanotu fell on the quarterback's leg.

Holcomb got his ankle taped and continued to play. He sprained his left ankle in the third quarter and still finished 25-of-38 for 222 yards and two TDs.

Wincing in pain and hobbling, Holcomb completed 12 of 14 passes on a 91-yard scoring drive in the final minutes, throwing an 11-yard TD pass to Andre' Davis for the game-winner.

''It was somewhat John Wayne-esque,'' Davis said Monday. ''He fought through the whole day and refused to surrender, like a heavyweight prize fighter. He kept getting up off the mat.''

Davis typically downplays injuries hoping that his optimism can help a player return earlier than expected. He dismissed a radio report that Holcomb will be out four-to-six weeks as ''totally erroneous'', and said he wasn't trying to mislead anyone.

''If he was going to be gone four-to-six, trust me, I wouldn't be telling you and setting myself up for looking like a fool on Wednesday,'' Davis said.

Holcomb has played hurt before.

Last year, he broke his left leg while filling in when Couch suffered a concussion against Baltimore. Holcomb stayed in despite the injury and nearly brought the Browns back for a win.

While at Middle Tennessee State, Holcomb broke his jaw and still finished a game.

Davis said initial X-rays at halftime didn't show the fracture. He considered switching to Couch in the third quarter, but decided not to when Holcomb appeared to be OK.

''He was moving around fine and he was playing fine,'' Davis said. ''He was able to plant and able to throw. ''Mobility was a little bit of an issue, but it wasn't much of a factor. I don't think anybody is going to mistake Kelly for Michael Vick anyway.''

On the Browns' final drive, Holcomb completed 11 straight passes. He threw to five receivers and converted four third-down situations despite excruciating pain.

''To see him in that kind of pain made us want to go out and make plays for him,'' said Andre' Davis, who made two big ones, catching a 2-yard TD pass to get Cleveland within 12-7.

Davis' game-winning catch came on a perfectly thrown ball by Holcomb, who put it high enough for the wide receiver to jump and catch it between five 49ers.

If Holcomb has to sit Sunday or for an extended period, the Browns will again turn to Couch, who led them to eight wins last season before losing his job this summer.

''Our football team believes in Tim,'' Davis said. ''Tim has won games here. Tim prepares. His mental attitude has been very good. When he's on the sideline, he's watching coverages. He and Kelly are talking. He's into the games as if he's going in on the next possession. From that standpoint, we feel good.''