By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Tim Couch softly tossed some footballs during practice on Monday, and in doing so, the Browns quarterback passed his first test.
Couch, sidelined the past week with a sore right arm, thinks he will be ready for Cleveland's regular season opener this Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"In my mind, I think I'm going to go," said Couch, who sat out Friday night's preseason finale against Carolina with what was called a bruised forearm. "I'm not going to know how it feels until after I throw a couple balls really hard."
After watching Couch practice on Monday, coach Butch Davis felt confident about his QB's chances of playing.
"Right now, there's nothing that leads us to believe that Tim won't be the starter," Davis said.
Couch revealed for the first time that scar tissue in his elbow -- the result of years of tendinitis -- pulled away from the ligament or muscle after he took a hit in last Monday night's game at Green Bay.
Scar tissue is the fourth different reason given in less than a week for Couch's pain.
After he left in the second quarter against the Packers, the Browns initially said their starting QB had strained his elbow. Then, they said he had strained his forearm. Following an MRI taken last Tuesday, Browns coach Butch Davis said Couch had bruised his forearm. Now, it's scar tissue, which Couch thinks pulled free after he completed a second-quarter pass to Quincy Morgan.
"From what I understand it can break loose at any time," Couch said. "On a throw or a hit or anything like that can cause it to break loose."
Couch, who went 30-of-39 during the best preseason of his four-year career, said surgery is not an option now, but it's a possibility in the off-season. The swelling in his elbow has gone down, and he'll continue to treat it with ice and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Couch does not want to sit, but he's not going to risk hurting himself worse just to play in the opener.
"I'm definitely willing to throw through the pain as long as it's not affecting the kind of throws I'm trying to make," he said. "If I can't go out there and throw a certain route, then I'm not going to go out there and hurt the team. If I can't make all the throws, then I'm not ready to go."
During the first half-hour of practice that reporters were allowed to watch on Monday, Couch played catch with quarterbacks coach Carl Smith and participated in a few passing drills, but didn't throw a pass longer than 10 yards.
Davis said the only time Couch sat out was during the two-minute drill that ended practice as backup Kelly Holcomb worked with the starting offense.
"He did everything," Davis said. "He did some easy throwing. He said after he got done throwing that it felt really good. I thought he threw it fairly crisp."
The Browns are off on Tuesday, but by Wednesday Davis said he'll have a better idea if Couch will start or Cleveland's offense will be run by Holcomb, who has made just one career start.
Holcomb went 8 of 9 for 90 yards on Friday night, and completed 75 percent (35-of-47) of his passes with three touchdowns during the exhibition season.
Couch has accepted that if his arm isn't ready by mid-week, he'll have to watch.
"I'll be disappointed," he said. "Obviously, I want to be out there on opening day when everyone is fired up to get the season started right. I want to be out there with my guys, but we have to see how it goes.
"We don't want to do anything that's going to keep me out for a whole year if another week's rest would have done me some good."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)