Couch finally gets released

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 12, 2004

CLEVELAND - Tim Couch was finally released Friday by the Cleveland Browns, a fittingly unceremonious send-off for the quarterback and former No. 1 overall draft pick.

The expected move was delayed to resolve a grievance Couch filed against the Browns for banning him from working out at their training facility.

Team spokesman Todd Stewart said the grievance filed through the NFL Players Association has been resolved, and Couch is no longer on Cleveland's roster.

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As of 4 p.m. EDT Friday, Couch became a free agent and can sign with another NFL team.

Couch's exit officially ends a stormy five-year stay in Cleveland, where his time with the Browns was marked by bad teams, his own inconsistency and controversy.

Couch, who passed for 11,131 yards and 64 touchdowns in five seasons, may soon sign with the Green Bay Packers, who have been interested in acquiring him to back up Brett Favre for several months.

Couch and his agent, Tom Condon, didn't immediately return phone messages.

The Browns thought they were getting their franchise QB when they made Couch their first selection as an expansion team in 1999. However, Couch's tenure included injuries, a yearlong debate over whether he or Kelly Holcomb should start as well as a love/hate relationship with Cleveland's fans.

Couch's departure was sealed in March when the Browns signed free agent Jeff Garcia.

Browns coach Butch Davis had considered keeping Couch as Garcia's backup but decided to release him because of his lofty contract _ $15.5 million the next two seasons.

Davis also wanted to make sure Holcomb was recovering from offseason shoulder surgery before letting Couch go.

The Browns tried to trade Couch, but couldn't find a partner because of his huge contract.

Because Couch was still on Cleveland's roster after June 1, he will count $1.75 million against the Browns' salary cap for the next two years.

After the Browns picked up Couch's contract option in 2002, Davis called him "the future of this franchise" and "the kind of guy you want to build a team around."

Davis also predicted Couch would lead the Browns to their first Super Bowl.

On Thursday, Davis was asked if he stood by those remarks.

"When you say things at those particular times you believe with the right supporting cast, with the right set of circumstances, with all the different scenarios that go into the success of any player," Davis said.

"At that particular time, yeah."