Browns QB Couch Says He's Fine

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Tim Couch expressed confidence Wednesday that all his bruised right forearm needs is rest and gentle treatment.

"I'll definitely play in the opener," Cleveland's fourth-year quarterback said after icing his arm while the Browns prepared for their final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Friday.

"As a competitor, I want to go out there Friday, but I don't know if that is the best thing for me to do," Couch said. "I have not tried to throw a ball, but I think I can. If they want me to play, I'm ready."

Cleveland opens the season at home against Kansas City on Sept. 8.

Couch was hurt Monday night in the second quarter of a 27-20 loss at Green Bay. The club first announced X-rays were negative and that he strained his elbow. After the game, Couch said he strained his forearm. The next day, an MRI revealed a bruised forearm.

"I feel a little sore, but I'm icing it down and doing a lot of stretching," Couch said. "I'm not real sure when it happened. I may have got hit and didn't realize it until I cut loose with a throw. During the heat of a game, you don't feel all the hits until the next day."

Three other starters also were hurt against the Packers.

Offensive tackle Ryan Tucker, defensive end Kenard Lang and tight end Aaron Shea all were optimistic they will recover quickly.

"I feel good and plan to play Friday," Tucker said of his sprained right calf. "They said it was my ankle, but I got hit in the back of my calf. It hurt a lot then, but I'm ready if they want me to play."

Lang, wearing a walking cast on his sprained right ankle, insisted he would try to play Friday.

"If the medical staff and coaches give me the OK, I'm going out there because I don't want to let my teammates down," Lang said. "They said it might take a while, but I'm not normal. That's not normal in a good way.

"I saw Marshall Faulk play two weeks after having his knee scoped. I said then that all things are possible."

Shea, his right arm in a sling, said his injury was not the same as the one that sidelined him the final four games last season.

"That was to my left shoulder and this is not nearly as bad," Shea said. "I just landed funny. It sure did hurt. I was frustrated at the time, but I feel better each day. I'll do whatever the coaches say to do, play or rest."

Couch, who went 14-of-18 for 112 yards and a touchdown against Green Bay, admitted being worried when he felt a pull as he completed a short pass to Quincy Morgan.

"I said, 'Oh, no, not another injury,'" Couch said. "I think I could have continued, but did not want to push the issue in a preseason game. When it's on your throwing arm, it really worries you. When the MRI showed no damage to the ligament, I began to feel much better."

If Couch can't play Friday, backup Kelly Holcomb would start. He went 6-of-10 for 98 yards Monday, and is 27-of-38 for 347 yards and three TDs in three preseason games.

"I have no clue if I'm starting," Holcomb said. "I'll do what I always do, get prepared. Sure, I want to play. But this is Tim Couch's team."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)