Couch, Holcomb begin Browns QB auditions

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Across the locker room, away from the throng of microphones, cameras and notebooks, Aaron Shea laughed about the hoopla.
Cleveland's simmering quarterback controversy is already a circus.
"All I know is one of those two hillbillies is going to start for us," joked the Browns tight end.
The Tim Couch vs. Kelly Holcomb competition to become Cleveland's starter moved into a new phase Tuesday as the Browns opened a three-day mini-camp.
All eyes were on every pass, three-step drop, incompletion and move the two QBs made.
Couch looked sharp in some drills. Holcomb did better in others. The intense scrutiny will undoubtedly be the same next month when the club opens training camp, and the two QBs will be dissected again during August exhibition games.
At some point, Browns coach Butch Davis will have to decide if Couch or Holcomb will be his starter for the Sept. 7 season opener against Indianapolis.
But Davis' decision both appear to be a long way off.
"It could happen tomorrow," said Holcomb, whose 429-yard performance against Pittsburgh in the playoffs spurred Davis' decision to open competition. "It could happen down the road. I'm just glad that I don't have to make that decision."
Last week, Davis said he will name his starter by Aug. 23, when the Browns visit Detroit for the third of their four preseason games.
Couch has more to lose. The former No. 1 overall draft pick overcame an early-season elbow injury a year ago and led the Browns to eight wins before breaking his leg in the regular-season finale and having to sit out against the Steelers.
It's been that way for Couch his entire pro career. Just when he finally seems to be winning over impatient fans, an injury sets him back.
"If I didn't get hurt everything might be different," Couch said. "But Kelly came in and he played really well. I'm not going to take anything away from him. He played a great game. Once your backup comes in and plays well there's going to be some competition and controversy."
Davis said last week that Couch never really lost his job, but that Holcomb had earned a chance to win it.
Holcomb is in a familiar role. The career backup has always believed he could start in the NFL, and he's getting another chance to prove he can.
Holcomb just hopes Davis waits until the preseason before picking a winner in the Browns' QB derby.
"That's when you find out about people," he said. "Nothing beats playing."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)