Kelly Holcomb Gets Start Against Bengals - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Kelly Holcomb Gets Start Against Bengals

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Kelly Holcomb gets to be Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback for one more Sunday.

Holcomb, who threw three touchdown passes in last week's season-opening loss while filling in for the injured Tim Couch, will start again this week against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"That's the plan right now," Browns coach Butch Davis said after Friday's practice.

On Monday, though, the plan will change once again and Couch, who has torn scar tissue in his right elbow, will be installed as the starter for next week's game at Tennessee.

"As far as what the doctors are telling me, when Monday morning rolls around, everything is back to normal," Couch said. "I'm under center again and taking all the reps."

Couch threw for the second day in a row on Friday and was able to make longer passes and throw with more velocity than he had since injuring his arm in an Aug. 26 exhibition game against Green Bay.

The Browns played it safe and rested Couch last week, and Davis hinted that he might do the same with defensive end Courtney Brown, who injured his neck in last week's game.

Brown, a former No. 1 overall pick like Couch, has been listed as probable on the injury report this week.

"He's got a bruise," Davis said. "We'll see how he feels."

After being the No. 3 quarterback last week in Cleveland's 40-39 loss to Kansas City, Couch will move up the depth chart and serve as Holcomb's backup for Cincinnati.

Couch said doctors have been encouraged by his progress, but they would prefer he rest his arm one more week to lessen the chance he would hurt it again.

"They're saying there's a greater chance of reinjuring it right now," Couch said. "There's a program they want me on as far as how many balls I throw everyday and when I throw them."

Couch was much more upbeat on Friday. When he spoke to reporters earlier in the week, the usually engaging Couch seemed dejected.

"I was disappointed," he said. "I had every intention of playing this weekend, and on Wednesday I found out the way the doctors felt about this week. It was kind of discouraging. Up until Wednesday, I thought I was playing."

Couch, who had his best preseason as a pro before getting hurt, said he now understands why doctors are being cautious. He's also encouraged by the way his arm has felt this week.

"It's really come a long way," said Couch, who visited famed orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., last week. "The pain is pretty much gone. Where I'm at right now is just really trusting my arm again.

"You don't want to cut loose and have it snap again like it did in Green Bay, but I have to trust it a little more and throw farther and farther."

After the way he has thrown in practice, Couch said if Holcomb was ever injured, he's confident -- and so are Cleveland's coaches -- he could play this week.

"They (coaches) know I could throw the ball hard down the field and our game wouldn't be affected if I had to go in," he said.

Holcomb's superb performance last week was overshadowed by Dwayne Rudd's costly helmet-tossing penalty and an injury this week to Browns center Dave Wohlabaugh, who broke his right hand in practice and will miss Sunday's game.

Making his second career start, and first since 1997, Holcomb went 27 of 39 for 326 yards and the three TDs.

"You dream of having games like that," Holcomb said. "But you try not to think about it. We had a pretty good game offensively, everybody. I just sat back there and made plays."

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

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