Davis remains silent on starting quarterback

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 23, 2003

BEREA - Browns coach Butch Davis isn't saying if he's going to start the quarterback with the broken leg or the one with the battered confidence.

Davis wouldn't announce Wednesday whether Kelly Holcomb or Tim Couch will be the starter Sunday at New England.

''We'll have an update probably some time, 12 o'clock on Sunday,'' a very vague Davis said following practice. ''Stay tuned.''

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Is Davis keeping his starter a secret just to keep the Patriots guessing until kickoff?

''No,'' he said. ''It's just that we're waiting to make the decision on Sunday.''

And so, Cleveland's never-ending soap opera at quarterback continues.

On Monday, Davis said he would make his decision by mid-week. He had wanted to first check on the health of Holcomb, who made his first appearance in a game last week since breaking his right leg on Sept. 21 at San Francisco.

Holcomb came off the bench to relieve Couch late in the third quarter of Sunday's loss to San Diego.

Holcomb said he has improved but isn't 100 percent. He also revealed that he has torn ligaments in his right ankle - an injury that until now went unreported by the team.

Holcomb talked to the media before practice, perhaps a sign that he'll make his first start in five weeks.

''My leg feels 100 percent better than it did last week,'' said Holcomb, who seemed to have an extra bounce in his step during the portion of practice open to reporters. ''There's still a little bit of soreness in there, but it's getting better.''

Although Holcomb wasn't completely healed last week, that didn't stop Davis from bringing him in after Couch threw the second of two costly interceptions.

Holcomb sparked the Browns, throwing a pair of TD passes in the fourth quarter to get Cleveland within three points before San Diego kicked a late field goal for a 26-20 win.

On Monday, Davis acknowledged that he had put Holcomb at risk by putting him in before he was completely recovered.

Holcomb didn't complain and never questioned whether he was jeopardizing his season by getting hurt worse.

''You don't think about that,'' he said. ''You take a risk every time you step on the field. You never know what's going to happen. They told me to go in, so I did.''

Holcomb said he's ready if the Browns need him again.

''I think I can run the offense,'' he said. ''I don't think I can run well. Another week would help, but I'm ready. If I'm called upon, then you gotta go in there and you gotta play.''

Meanwhile, the Browns' offensive line has apparently lost another starter.

Left tackle Barry Stokes, who has been battling a severely sprained right ankle since Week 2, was in a fitted cast and on crutches.

Davis said Stokes did not break the ankle and that the cast was just to immobilize it.

If Stokes can't play, Joaquin Gonzalez will make his first career start Sunday. Gonzalez played the entire second half last week when Stokes reaggravated his injury.

The Browns are also likely to be without starting center Jeff Faine and left guard Shaun O'Hara for the second straight week because of knee injuries. Neither practiced Wednesday.

Running back William Green (shoulder) and right tackle Ryan Tucker (chest) were listed as probable on the injury report.

Green had to leave Sunday's game in the first half after taking a hard hit. X-rays were negative but he was limited in the second half.

On Monday, Green had his right arm in a sling, but Davis said the Browns' leading rusher took part in practice on Wednesday.

''He can do everything,'' Davis said. ''We just didn't hit him.''

The Browns have a bye next week, but Davis said that will not factor into his decision about who plays against the Patriots.

''We're trying to win this football game,'' he snapped, ''and that's the bottom line.''